Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has been appointed chairman of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission that will analyse the bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The announcement was made as part of a series of Commission heads revealed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Zhukov is one of his country’s most senior politicians and is currently First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Lower House of Russia’s Parliament, having previously served under Putin as Deputy Prime Minister between 2004 and 2011.
The appointment could prove especially controversial if Ukrainian city Lviv are shortlisted by the IOC’s ruling Executive Committee when they consider the applications of the five bidding cities at its meeting in Lausanne on July 8 and 9.
Zhukov recently publicly criticised the Ukrainian Government, claiming their “legitimacy is doubtful” following the overthrow in February of former President Viktor Yanukovich.
He also backed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community.
The names who will make up the rest of the Commission are yet to be announced but the IOC have confirmed to insidethegames that they will be unveiled in July.
As chair, Zhukov will lead a team of experts who will assess the unspecified number of Candidate Cities once they are selected.
Like Lviv, the other bidders – Almaty, Beijing, Kraków and Oslo – are all located in countries that share a border with Russia.
The appointment marks the growth of Russian influence in the IOC following the success of Sochi 2014, despite the concerns which dogged the build-up.
Zhukov, who became Russia’s fourth current IOC member at the Session in Buenos Aires last September, was chairman of the Supervisory Board for Sochi 2014.
He was President of the Russian Chess Federation from 2003 to 2009.
The Commission will visit the bid cities and analyse bid documents before creating and presenting a report to the IOC members ahead of the final decision being made in Kuala Lumpar on July 31, 2015.
This article first appeared in www.insidethegames.biz and is reproduced with permission.