GIANNI MERLO / AIPS in MILAN*: On September 10, 2013 a new president of the IOC to succeed Jacques Rogge, No1 of world sport for 12 years (two mandates, the first of eight years and the second of four), will be elected in Buenos Aires.
A large number of candidates – six – are contesting for the succession so the run-up will be electric.
In addition, the so-called ‘ethical rules’ do not allow candidates to conduct a true electoral campaign, so everything will be decided by those colleagues in the IOC who know how to move.
Voting will follow the usual criterion: the winner will be the person obtaining 50pc plus one of the votes.
If this is not achieved in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated and so on, until a possible final duel. We expect that everything will be decided quite quickly in Buenos Aires, maybe even in the first round, because there are feverish negotiations in progress.
The new president will face, immediately, delicate problems because the international federations want a larger slice of the Olympic pie.
The problem of the Olympic programme which is revised every time has also increased appetites. Perhaps the modernisation of the programme in the current fashion was not a good idea. At times, it seems to come back like a boomerang.
Currently, the situation seems confused although we are convinced that, inside, someone has a precise plan in mind. The only check is whether the plan is good for world sport.
Sometimes, new ideas are healthy.
For this, the person emerging victorious from among Thomas Bach, Sergei Bubka, Richard Carrion, Dennis Oswald, Ser Mian Ng and Ching-Kuo Wu will have to create a solid team to reign from the very start and perhaps some of the other candidates must necessarily be part of it. Internal transverse vendettas would only lead the IOC to end up like the Titanic.
A lot of talk has focused on influential voters and one of these is Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, the 50-year-old Kuwaiti sheikh, who is fast becoming the most influential man in the Olympic family.
From certain points of view, he is a non-conformist. He has shoulder-length curls and his beard is a little unkempt. When he’s in Europe, and he is not forced by protocol to wear the long white tunic. He goes round in sporty leather jackets. He’s friendly with everyone. He’s been a member of the IOC for 20 years and has had the chance to study this particular world in depth.
So now Sheikh Ahmad will probably be able to manage the most important package of votes because, at the last two elections – first for the presidency of SportAccord in St Petersburg in May and then in Lausanne in June to choose the site of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games – his preferred candidate won on each occasions.
In St Petersburg that was Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation, who beat IRB president Bernard Lapasset, supported by the most fundamentalist opposing wing in the Olympic family.
During the extraordinary session in Lausanne, Buenos Aires demolished Medellin (which almost everyone took to be the real favourite) for the right to stage the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
This was astounding, considering the presence of Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia.
The men from the Gulf have climbed, and are still climbing, to the top of some key organisations. It’s a sort of Arab spring because we may be on the eve of profound changes in the sporting universe, where many new balances between the IOC and the international federations, which are hungry for glory and money, must be redrawn.
Sheikh Ahmad is president of the Olympic Council of Asia. He was a politician in the past. He is clearly financially powerful but he is also adept at weaving friendships and achieving consensus because he always goes on the attack when he wants to reach an objective.
He is not afraid of being seen in the halls of hotels lobbying personally. With respect to his colleagues on the IOC, he has an extra gear at certain times. While the others make long inconclusive speeches, he acts. He will probably tip the balance in the election of the next president of the IOC.
* GIANNI MERLO is president of AIPS. This article appeared originally on www.AIPSmedia.com. Founded in 1924, AIPS is the association of international sports journalists.