We cannot know the ambitions of Sheikh Ahmad, ruling family Kuwaiti, Olympic official extraordinaire. Speculation suggests becoming successor to Thomas Bach,IOC President. If so, yesterday’s announcement of ANOC’s inaugural Gala Awards this autumn is a master-stroke on a par with the political initiative of the late Primo Nebiolo. “It is a project I am particularly passionate about,” the Sheikh stated.
I knew Ahmad’s father, Sheikh Fahad, quite well – a genial racehorse owner often in London, and also football devotee. Ahmad, controversially nominated when still in his Twenties by IOC President Samaranch, as presidential successor of Olympic Council of Asia when Fahad was killed at the outset of Kuwait’s invasion bySaddam, is also genial, yet armed with a smokescreen tactical acumen that leaves
the Olympic Movement guessing at his strategic influence.
Do not, on the one hand, doubt his sincerity. Here is an Olympian altruist,athlete-focused with an emphasis on youth. Replacing as ANOC president that veteran Mexican Mario Vasques Rana, sport’s benefactor who wore his titles like a velvet cloak, Ahmad believes in hands-on practicality: an innovative Olympic Beach Games, for instance; demonstrative recognition of NOCs, who could rightly be termed the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) of the Olympic circle alongside parental IOC and self-important IFs.
So, the Games Awards will reflect this recognition. They will come in six
categories, determined by a selection committee yet to be announced:
* Best athletes from London 2012 (male and female individual, male and
* Best athletes from Sochi 2014 (ditto)
* Coach of the year
* Most successful NOC in 2012 and 2014
* Best breakthrough NOC
* ANOC Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award
On the latter, candidates who spring to mind immediately are Kip Keino of Kenya and Marjorie Jackson of Australia.
Funding the Gala is financially speculative: ANOC does not have the 20 million Dollars windfall that Nebiolo archly manipulated from South Korea for preferential television scheduling at Seoul ’88, thereby creating the International Athletic Foundation; and 204 times, say, three blazers each amounts to a hefty
order of fizz at some expensive venue.
Yet the concept, holding a party and telling people what a splendid job they are doing is perfect PR for consolidating Ahmad’s unique triple platform behind Bach: head of ANOC, OCA and Solidarity.
Bach, of course, was there yesterday, briefing ANOC’s executive on progressing analyzing thousands of suggested IOC adaptations to be debated at “Agenda 2020” in December. A picture of administrative unity, more at ease thanIF/SportAccord’s relationship in which Accord’s president Marius Vizer has difficulty locating willing host cities. It is 40 years since Tommy Keller, president of international rowing, attempted an overthrow of the IOC. IFs are traditionally always the more threatening brother of the family triangle. Els van Breda Vriesman, past president of international hockey, was conversely sympathetic to the imbalance experienced by some NOCs in the selection process in some sports for Olympic Games.
There is no appearance of Ahmad being other than wholly supportive of Bach,but the extent of Ahmad’s influence has an unseen, iceberg potential. A quick assessment of IOC Members, those with either official or subjective affiliation to NOC interests, reveals some thirty who on critical issues could be open to Ahmad’s persuasion – were Bach ever to falter in what are, since his election ten months ago,strident convictions about modernization.
For the moment, Ahmad is as anodyne amid the Movement’s tensions as the scent of mown grass. Asked yesterday about media reports of North Korea boycotting October’s Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea, he softly asserted in his school-masterly tone: “A North Korean boycott? North Korea will participate, we already have their athlete entries, their delegate nominations. I met with someone from North Korea today before I knew of the press release. They will be there.”This man is sure of himself.
This article was republished with permission from Karl-Heinz Huba, the editor and publisher of the Sport Intern.