Olympics offers hope at a time when sport faces challenges

Special Report, by Toby Bilton

With the largest sporting event on the planet just months away, the International Olympic Committee will be mindful of some of the issues troubling world sport.

Smiles returned to the faces of sporting fans last week when the governing body of world football Fifa promised to reform its ways under the leadership of newly-elected president Gianni Infantino.

The corruption that had tainted the integrity of sports governance could soon be forgotten. Albeit for merely a few days.

Chapter one of the “post-Lance Armstrong sporting scandal era” began with Fifa last May. Chapter two saw the doping debacle surrounding the International Association of Athletics Federation.

The IAAF was involved in the third chapter too, with allegations surrounding the hosting of the World Athletics Championships in 2017, 2019 and 2021. A protagonist in the latter chapters is ex-IOC president Lamine Diack, who figures prominently in the next instalment.

French prosecutors leading the investigation into the IAAF are now exploring corruption allegations regarding the bidding and voting processes of the 2016 and 2020 Games, according to The Guardian.

The allegations centre round Diack’s son, who The Guardian claim is alleged to have arranged for parcels to be delivered to six influential IOC members during the bidding process of the 2016 games. The allegations will have shocked Olympic stakeholders, whilst reminding IOC members of the turmoil that the Salt Lake City scandal caused in 1998.

After it was revealed that several IOC members had accepted bribes in return for their vote of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics 2002 bid, the institution was forced to reform. Not dis-similar to Fifa last week, the maximum term time for leadership was reduced whilst the membership of the body was re-shuffled.

Faced with questions regarding the fresh allegations of corruption, IOC President Thomas Bach said at the annual Conference in Lausanne: “The IOC has done as much as any organisation can do to address the issue of corruption. We have all rules and instruments in place to fight corruption with zero tolerance.”

Diverting attention away from the scandal, Bach announced that a team of refugees would compete under the Olympic flag: “We are all touched by the magnitude of the current refugee crisis. That is why we’re starting to identify refugee athletes that could qualify for the Olympic Games.”

Reminding the world of the Olympic message, he said he hoped the team would “send a message of hope to all refugees in the world.”

Hall of shame
Sepp Blatter: The ex-Fifa President received a six year ban from football for awarding Michel Platini a ‘disloyal payment’ of £1.3m. Under charges of much wider corruption, the Swiss spent 16 years as an IOC member.
Lamine Diack: Widely renowned to have an influence over African voting both at Fifa and the IOC, the ex-IAAF president is currently under arrest in Paris. He was an honorary member of the IOC until he was forced to resign in November 2015.
Hein Verbuggen: Failed to unearth the Lance Armstrong scandal whilst boss of cycling’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale. Verbuggen spent 12 years on the IOC board and is currently an honorary member.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Hahad al-Sabah: Influential at both Fifa and the IOC, the Kuwaiti Sheikh was recently accused by Conservative MP Damian Collins of using the Olympic Council of Asia to buy votes.
Issa Hyatou: An IOC member since 2001, Hyatou was the acting president during the Fifa election last week. Played a role in the ISL bribery scandal and has also been accused of accepting a $1.5m bribe for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, an accusation he denies.

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