KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —– New Olympic president Thomas Bach has moved quickly to block world football from playing fast and loose with the international sports calendar, as is being threatened over the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Bach, who was elected two months ago to succeed Jacques Rogge as president of the International Olympic Committee, had called a weekend summit of Olympic sports leaders in Lausanne. Those attending included FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Action was either proposed or agreed on a wide range of central concerns for world sport and these included the international calendar.
At the moment there is no formal schedule but several senior IOC members were shocked by the sudden prospect of FIFA driving a coach and horses through the accepted parameters of the summer-alternating Olympics and World Cup.
This prospect arose after Michel Platini, French president of the European football federation UEFA, launched his campaign not only to switch the Qatar 2022 World Cup to the winter but across the January date assumed to be the ‘property’ of the Winter Olympics.
FIFA has launched a fact-finding mission to discuss the Qatar Cup timing with all worldwide football stakeholders. It is not expected to report back for at least 18 months.
Long before then the IOC is expected to devise proposals to bring rigour and formality to the international sports calendar.
A statement after the summit said a working group “under the leadership of the IOC, composed of the main stakeholders of the Olympic and sporting movement, will compile a comprehensive sporting calendar of current events.
“This working group will also discuss the priority of current and future sports events within the global calendar.”
Significantly, the move was pursuant upon agreement “that any new initiative has to respect the uniqueness of the Olympic Games. It means that neither the Olympic Programme nor Games revenues should be adversely affected in any way.”
Among the attendees at the summit, apart from Blatter, was the Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah in his role as president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
Al-Sabah was not only an IOC election supporter of Bach but played a significant role in the election last May of Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa as president of the Asian Football Confederation.
Sheikh Salman, by coincidence, has been appointed by Blatter to oversee FIFA’s Qatar timing investigation.
Other issues on Bach’s agenda included:
1, Support both for Sir Craig Reedie as next president of the World Anti Doping Agency and
for an expansion of WADA’s role and powers;
2, The creation of an IOC unit to help coordinate the fight against match-fixing and illegal betting and press for a harmonisation of rules within sport;
3, The creation of an experts’ network to promote good governance within sports governing bodies – such a network to be supported by a mediation task force where issues arise [The summit may have been thinking about recent tawdry events within the UCI, the international cycling federation].
Bach also set out his own priorities for action as IOC president which include a review of the Olympic Games bidding and ‘youth encouragement’ strategy.
Thomas Bach (IOC president)
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (ANOC president)
Sepp Blatter (FIFA president)
Claudia Bokel (chair, IOC athletes’ commission)
John Coates (IOC vice-president)
Lamine Diack (IAAF president)
Nawal El Moutawakel (IOC vice-president)
René Fasel (AIOWF president
Patrick Hickey (IOC executive board member)
Peng Liu (Chinese Olympic Committee president)
Julio César Maglione (FIFA president)
Larry Probst (US Olympic Committee president)
Sir Craig Reedie (IOC vice-president)
Francesco Ricci Bitti (ASOIF president, via video link)
Marius Vizer (SportAccord president)
Ching-Kuo Wu (IOC executive board member)
Alexander Zhukov (Russian Olympic Committee president)