KEIR RADNEDGE in BUENOS AIRES: Sepp Blatter is in Buenos Aires for a presidential election. Not FIFA’s this time but that of the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC – at least an event organiser, at most a guardian of sporting morality – has more than 100 members and Blatter, through his status as president of world football, is one of them. Just another president among many, this time.
Does the IOC matter for football?
After all, Olympic football is not exactly mainstream and no-one walks down the street wearing a shirt bearing the label ‘IOC’ or ‘Olympics’ or with ‘Rogge’ on the back (Not, to be fair, that anyone wears a shirt emblazoned ‘Blatter’ either).
Last weekend saw the IOC pick Tokyo as host city for the 2020 Olympics and reinstate wrestling in the programme. Then, tomorrow, it picks a new president.
Six candidates have been nominated: Germany’s former Olympic fencer Thomas Bach, Ukraine’s one-time gold medal winning pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, Puerto Rican banking whiz Richard Carrion, Singapore’s senior IOC vice-president Ser Miang Ng, Swiss rowing veteran Denis Oswald and boxing federation boss C K Wu from Taiwan.
All six fret about how to connect with youth. That is one challenge football does not face. Indeed, the Olympic movement could learn some lessons.
Blatter will share the occasion with particular interest. He may even view FIFA as superior in one sense. FIFA decisions depend on an annual congress in which each national association has a vote. IOC decisions are made by a mysteriously selected cabal of 100-plus individuals from around ‘only’ 70 nations. Not exactly democratic, then.
However the president does have an advantage denied the leader of world football.
After the Salt Lake City scandal of a decade ago the IOC put its house in order to such effect that a president now serves a first term of eight years, can be re-elected for a further four years and must then retire.
Hence Belgian orthopaedic surgeon Jacques Rogge has to be replaced because the former Olympic sailor and rugby international has finished his 12-year stint.
Blatter once told this writer that FIFA should consider adopting the Olympic system: but it was not one of the proposals to emerge from the protracted reform process of the last two and a half years.
Instead Blatter is considering whether to stand, in 2015, for a fifth term . . . and wondering what Michel Platini, his one-time protégé and now UEFA president, will tell Europe’s federations of his own personal ambitions later this month.
Whatever the IOC decides will have no bearing on it. The IOC has sought to coordinate the fight against doping and matchfixing but is shackled because it is not a governing federation of any sport.
But when problems arise in sports’ federations – as with FIFA in the past and cycling’s UCI right now – it would be valuable for sport’s image if such a body could rap some knuckles. None of the present six appear likely ever to dare such a gambit with FIFA and Blatter.
And that says something about the power of football in this sporting life.