Editor’s Note: David Miller Aires talks exclusively to the influential Kuwaiti
Sheikh Fahad, killed at the start of the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1991, was my close Olympic friend, a race horse owner and football fanatic often in London. As a conventional Westerner, I enjoyed the unusual experience of eating with him in a tent in the desert on the one occasion. His death as president of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) was a sad loss to all.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, then IOC President, took the unexpected step of replacing father with young son. Over 20 years, Sheikh Ahmad has become one of the foremost figures in the Olympic Movement, now currently and controversially having been involved in supposed influence in the election of Jacques Rogge’s successor.
Whatever the extent of his possible persuasion of colleagues on which way they will have voted – believed to have been supportive of Thomas Bach – Sheikh Ahmad robustly proclaims his objectivity in actions as new Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) president.
“My concerns are always governed by the head rather than the heart,” he says. “The Olympic Games – masterminded by the International Olympic C ommittee (IOC), for which we elect a President – last for two weeks. My responsibility for the interest of 204 national Olympic committees lasts for four years. It is their welfare which it is my job to protect and promote.”
The controversy here has surrounded Bach’s previous commercial relationship in the Middle East, and specifically in Kuwait. As presidential candidate, Bach had immediately announced he would withdraw from such commitment if elected.
Sheikh Ahmad states: “It is my duty to collaborate with whoever is IOC President. Before the election, my association with all the candidates was concerned with their respective abilities to ensure the Olympic Movement’s continuity and prosperity. They have known that they could rely on me to co-operate with whichever one of them was elected, and that I would support them.”
Regarding Bach’s business involvement in Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmad is dismissive of the criticism that has coloured the campaign. “Those in Kuwait with whom Thomas worked were in fact my political opponents,” he said. ” I have known Thomas since long before that engagement.”
The Sheikh is also intent on explaining that his influence in the election of a new president of SportAccord – in which Marius Viser of Romania was preferred to Bertrand Lappasset, French president of international rugby – essentially revolved around that organization’s previous and future administrative development – as he sees it.
Whether or not Sheikh Ahmad held vested interest in the outcome of today’s election, the new IOC President can be sure that he will both be able to rely on the Sheikh’s enthusiasm for the advance of the Olympic Games, yet must also listen closely to his parallel objectives.
David Miller, who covered 22 Olympic Games and 14 World Cups, can be reached on Twitter @DavidOlympic. The above article was first appeared in The Sport Intern, a blog published by Karl-Heinz Huba in Lorsch, Germany. This article is reprinted here with permission from the blog publisher. Mr. Huba can be reached via email at ISMG@aol.com.