Chairman of IOC Marketing Commission Says “We Need an Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove”

 

The election of a successor to President Jacques Rogge in September is, in the opinion of Norwegian International Olympic Committee member and Chairman of the IOC Marketing Commission Gerhard Heiberg, the most important decision in many years.

“This is of more concern for us than choosing a Summer Games host city for 2020” Heiberg says, “protecting the interests of the IOC for the next eight years or more. What do we need to do to ensure we make the right choice?

Singapore's Ng Ser Miang, right, shakes hands with International Olympic Commitee President Jacques Rogge. Ng wants to succeed Rogge and become the first Asian to head up the IOC.

“I support wholeheartedly the principal that we should change the process for the election – that the members and the candidates should be able to speak openly together beforehand: for each of the candidates to outline their manifesto, what ideas they have, and for the members to be able to ask questions. This should happen at the Forum in July, with then the candidates making formal presentations at the session in September.”

Heiberg, president of the organizing committee of Lillehammer’s 1994 Winter Games, alarmed at potential threats looming for the IOC in the immediate future: the move towards ‘universal games,’ already created by European Olympic Committees under the presidency of Patrick Hickey, and similar expressed ambitions within SportAccord and, under the new leadership of Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait, within the Association of National Olympic Committees.

“This trend has to be resisted by the IOC,” Heiberg says, “and it will require an iron fist in a velvet glove. There is no space in the calendar, such moves would dilute the available pool of sponsorship money, would exhaust the athletes. The new president will have the task of holding together the Olympic Movement, there are so many challenges there within the IFs and NOCs that will have to be tackled. We have to protect the existing pattern including the competitors.”

Heiberg added that the new president will also have to uphold Rogge’s policy of zero tolerance on drugs and illegal betting, that these must be a basic platform for any candidate. “What we need is an election process that enables us properly to know and to trust the candidate we elect.”

What Heiberg does not articulate, yet implies, is that the IOC wants someone with the willfulness of Juan Antonio Samaranch: someone who, by a combination of  intuition, reading the tea leaves and sheer personality, is predominantly one step ahead in the game of administrative politics, which permanently bedevil the Olympic world.

On the issue of a salaried presidency, Heiberg, a voluntary commission chairman throughout his involvement, considers that no individual would request this, but that if members approve the policy in session, it would be accepted by an elected candidate. The same policy, he suggests, might be applied to leading commission chairmen such as finance, marketing and television negotiations.

This article by David Miller first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl Heinz-Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Mr. Heinz-Huba.

 

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