NEW YORK: Richard Carrion has dared to boldly go where none of his rivals for the Olympic presidency has dared writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The Puerto Rican banker has stepped outside the campaign circle of platitudes to step into the growing storm over Russia’s new anti-gay legislation.
Carrion and his five IOC rivals – Thomas Bach (Germany), Sergey Bubka (Ukraine), Ser Miang Ng (Singapore), Denis Oswald (Switzerland) and C K Wu (Taiwan) and Denis Oswald (Switzerland) – stated their cases to the full IOC last month in Lausanne.
Ignoring the concept of transparency, the IOC staged the conference session behind closed door. However it is understood that Carrion made a positive impression with his address.
The surprise element stemmed from perceptions that Carrion’s sole focus had concerned finance because of his role as the IOC’s chief contracts negotiator.
After suggesting otherwise in Lausanne, Carrion has dispelled such criticism entirely with his criticism of the Russian anti-gay law just six months ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Until now he and his rivals have been united in their opposition to doping and corruption, a need to re-connect with youth and a wish for improved relations within the Olympic movement.
But Carrion is the first to break ranks on a more contentious and confrontational issue.
In June Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a Bill which prohibited any ‘gay lifestyle propaganda.’ Punishments include two weeks’ jail, fines of up to £2,000, deportation and refusal of future visa applications.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has insisted that the law will be enforced during the Sochi Games.
Carrion, in a statement, retorted: “We should use all the avenues possible for influence and diplomacy with Russian officials, so that this legislation will not create a problem for our athletes.
“I am confident that the discussions going on now with the Russian authorities will help clarify the extent of the law and will ensure that our athletes will be protected.
“One of the deepest core values of the Olympic movement is ‘sports as a human right.’ Nothing should ever stand in the way of that.”
He also suggested that the governmental guarantees which accompany any host city bid should include a prohibition on laws that “discriminate against people in any way, consistent with the Olympic Charter.”
Carrion’s IOC rivals are now under pressure to follow his lead in defence of what the movement describes as ‘Olympic values.’
Since he was always unlikely to garner any election votes from the Russian sphere of influence, his words will not harm his prospects; indeed, they may persuade undecided IOC members about his wider leadership potential.