KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Thomas Bach, without mentioning FIFA by name, claimed the moral high ground for the International Olympic Committee by comparison with the scandal-battered world football federation.
Bach, president of the IOC, was addressing the opening sector of the IOC’s annual session [congress] in Kuala Lumpur where members will choose the host of the 2022 Winter Games.
The German was a guest of honour at FIFA Congress in May when he cautioned world football leaders – including president and fellow IOC member Sepp Blatter – about the difficulties in bringing about meaningful reform.
Over the past five, scandal-shrouded years, FIFA’s governance has been called into question over personal and corporate ethics, controls of directors and transparency.
Blatter was not in Kuala Lumpur, apart from last week’s trip to Russia for the World Cup draw he has insisted on staying safely at home in Switzerland, where he has remained ever since the corruption arrests of May 27.
Bach told his listeners: “People today demand more transparency and want to see concrete steps and results on how we are living up to our values and our responsibility.
“We need to demonstrate that we are indeed walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
“We know from our own [IOC] history how long it takes to rebuild credibility and that implementing best practices with regard to good governance and transparency cannot happen overnight.
“The IOC has already undertaken major efforts 15 years ago to strengthen good governance and transparency.
“Putting these changes like term limits, age limit and others in place has not been an easy process. But today we see very clearly just how vital these reforms have been for our organisation.”
Bach then gave the IOC in general a pat on the back for voting in the restrictions-easing ‘Agenda 2020’ programme last December to “bring the IOC up to even higher standards.”
He said: “Following the advice from independent experts, we introduce a state-of-the-art system of good governance, compliance and transparency, including our strict rules for the candidate city procedures.”
A more transparent annual report was to be published, said Bach, which would include details of directors’ remuneration packages, something which Blatter’s FIFA has repeatedly avoided.
Bach sid: “Everybody interested can see where our revenues are coming from and how we distribute 90pc of them for the worldwide development of sport and athletes.
“We are showing in the same transparent way the indemnity policy for all IOC members including the president.”
Sport in society
Pointing up the responsibility of sports federations to society at large, Bach continued: “Sport does not operate in isolation from the rest of society. We are living in the middle of a modern and diverse society that holds us accountable for what we do.
“This is why from the very beginning of developing the Olympic Agenda 2020, it was important to have close consultation with stakeholders from inside and outside the Olympic Movement. This is what made the Olympic Agenda 2020 truly inclusive, transparent and reflective of the many priorities of all stakeholders.
“Our founder, Pierre de Coubertin, put it well, when he said: ‘Olympism is a destroyer of dividing walls. It calls for air and light for all.’
“We have opened our doors and windows. We let air and light in through dialogue. We speak with a wide range of stakeholders from all walks of life. These include, among others, the United Nations, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Trade Union Confederation and other NGOs.”
Not that the much-trumpeted Olympic Charter clauses on non-discrimination and freedom of right to report mean exactly what all those pressure groups would like to think.
Bach insisted that they were effective only “within the context of the Olympic Games [because] outside the context of the Olympic Games the IOC has to respect the laws of sovereign states.”
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