POSTED: November 8th 2017

NEIL WILSON: What chance the IOC will put the skids under Russia's Olympics?

IOC President Dr Thomas Bach at the ANOC General Assembly in Prague © Getty Images
IOC President Dr Thomas Bach at the ANOC General Assembly in Prague © Getty Images

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Thomas Bach must know how President Trump feels. Or, for that matter, Britain's beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May.

All are in the same boat and right now it is rocking wildly in troubled waters. 

Bach poured oil on those waters this month when he stressed to a gathering of National Olympic Committees in Prague that a $12 billion TV contract through to 2032 and the awarding of summer Games for 2024 and 2028 gave the Olympic Movement unprecedented stability. 

But in truth it is the stability of a boat on the crest of a wave for the split second before it plunges in raging seas. 

In the week Bach was speaking one of his IOC members, former Olympic sprinter Frankie Fredericks, was being arraigned for a judge in Paris on corruption charges. A few days later another, Alex Gilady, was accused by two fellow Israelis of sexual harassment.

And let us not forget that three other IOC members of recent vintage - Pat Hickey, Lamine Diack and Carlos Nuzman - all await trial on charges for corruption related to Olympic matters. 

If that is not enough to trouble Bach's world, far more immediate is the decision that the IOC must make on December 5 on whether to punish Russia for its state-supported doping programme around the previous Games in Sochi.

Banning the country entirely from the Winter Games in PyeongChang is thought highly unlikely. The IOC has always shied from collective punishment, as it did most recently at the Rio Games. 

But could it punish by denying Russia the right to branded uniforms in PyeongChang? Or from flying its flag, or marching in the opening ceremony? Or let it off the hook with a sizeable fine?

All are possible but already the Russians are threatening retaliation, boycott, or at the least a refusal to release hockey players from the Kontinental Hockey League it runs. That would hurt the national rosters of several countries, including favourites Canada. 

Since the NHL has refused the release of its players already in an unrelated wrangle with the IOC, it would leave the Olympic hockey tournament shattered. 

Remember in any case that PyeongChang is not a guaranteed success for the IOC. Ticket sales are poor. Interest domestically is low. And the acting chair of its main sponsor has been jailed for corruption. 

And if PyeongChang is not a success, how will that affect interest in forthcoming editions of the Winter Olympics. There is no queue of interested cities forming yet to host the 2026 Games. 

Bach and his executive board have a tricky balancing act on December 5. Do they look strong by sanctioning Russia heavily or do they take the myopic view by protecting their winter brand? 

The IOC has form. You should bet it will not seek the moral high ground. Russia will be handled with kid gloves.  A slap on the wrist. Why rock the boat? 

 ** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

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