How to run the Olympic Games?
The former Soviet Union once campaigned for the IOC to introduce UN-style one-country-one-vote membership. President Thomas Bach’s innovative ‘Agenda 2020’ scrutiny, inviting all-comers’ opinion, has provoked an even more massive regulatory response: forty thousand suggestions. Yes, four and four zeros!
If anyone doubted the validity of market research that rates recognition of the Olympic Rings on a par with Mercedes, this proves the case. In infinity of ways, an inconspicuous French aristocrat’s 19th-century ideology today encircles the globe.
And the new President is correct in his intuition: following 12 years of Programme stalemate, there is no time to lose in analysing, and adjusting, the IOC’s platform and future path, if its exclusivity and unique qualities are to be protected.
It is not far-fetched to suppose that, amid rampant, mounting commercialism, any misjudgement by the IOC could lead to rival, athlete-enticing alternatives and, say, the equivalent of professional boxing’s multi-ring circus of simultaneous heavyweight world champions.
Of course, some of the ideas flooding into Chateau Vidy are fanciful – an annual Olympic Games is one of them. Yet the wisdom of the Working Groups – to be announced in June with responsibility for sifting the suggestions before reaching recommendations to put before the Executive Board, these then to be referred to the Extraordinary Session at Monte Carlo in December – may perhaps involve the most significant Olympic gathering since the founding congress at the Sorbonne in 1894.
In recognition of this, it is worth drawing attention to one of the more prominent submissions: by the Norwegian Olympic Committee founded in 1900. This nation of the Nobel Peace Prize, moral exemplars, has suggestions which offer a blueprint the IOC could do well to embrace.
Inge Andersen, secretary-general, explains. “Our aim is to protect the Olympic Games, the whole Olympic ethic. There are many new people attempting to negotiate power positions, within differing subordinate associations, and it is vital that exclusivity of the Olympic Games is shielded from possible exploitation, right across the globe.
“The project of Thomas Bach to create a platform for reformation of existing ideals needs to succeed, knowing that other organisations are contemplating other systems. We in Norway seek to uphold democratic principles: fair play, the rights of workers’ unions, the integrity of sponsors. Without being arrogant, we would like to influence the IOC in the synchronisation of sport within society, that sponsors have a parallel objective.”
A precis of Norway’s submission is as follows (my sequence of items, not theirs):
∗ The only way the IOC, the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games can maintain exclusivity is by managing its brand in a manner true and credible: fair, clean, inclusive, independent.
∗ The principle of the Olympic Charter highlights the educational value of good example, social responsibility and ethnical principle, placing sport as a tool of humanitarian conduct, adherence to the Charter a prerequisite of hosting cities.
∗ Sustainability, directly related to the number of disciplines and the budget cost, require crucial control so as to expand and encourage potential host cities.
∗ Whenever possible, use of upgraded existing facilities must be recommended, directing bidding cities to be financially rational.
∗ While Organising Committees must be professionally competent, an Olympic Games must remain connected to regional and domestic sport structures and the essential culture of volunteerism that embraces grassroots activity. Transfer-of-Knowledge on volunteerism is an essential component of host selection.
∗ The value of Youth Olympic Games as an experimental laboratory is paramount, and should be actively utilised, both in administration of the Olympic Games and programming of disciplines.
∗ The IOC’s guidelines must ensure bidding cities are climate and environment neutral, under strict international standards.
∗ On anti-doping, the IOC, recognising the variation in random-testing maintain exclusivity is by competence at both NOC and federation level, must take more responsibility in extensive testing of elite athletes, while firmly excluding from competition organisations identified by WADA is non-compliant.
Bach, the ninth IOC President elected by a convincing majority, has accepted an onerous duty for maintaining the equilibrium of the world’s foremost social gathering.
This article was republished with permission from Karl-Heinz Huba, the editor and publisher of The Sport Intern.