Mario Vazquez Raña resigns

Mario Vazquez Raña, arguably the most influential figure in the Western Hemisphere in the Olympic movement, abruptly announced his resignation Thursday as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

In a four-page press release, Vazquez Raña, who will turn 80 in June, said he is stepping down from the IOC; from his spot on the IOC’s policy-making executive board; as president of Olympic Solidarity; and as president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees.

“It has been very difficult for me to take such a drastic decision,” he said, launching into a lengthy explanation and singling out two IOC political opponents — Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahah Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Patrick Hickey of Ireland — in an extraordinary document that lays bare some of the behind-the-scenes political infighting in the Olympic movement in a way that is almost never chronicled.

It has been clear since the ANOC general assembly in Acapulco in October, 2010, that Vazquez Raña was nearing the end of his Olympic days. In Acapulco he was re-elected to the ANOC presidency, for a term through 2014. The challenge is that the IOC imposes a mandatory age-80 retirement. Vazquez Raña’s 80th birthday is June 7; he would have stopped being an IOC member in December. Thus, the inevitable conflict — and the question of how he was going to go out.

On his terms?

Or someone else’s?

The answer came, unequivocally, in today’s blast.

Vazquez Raña did not get to power, and hold on to it, for some 30 years by being anything but clever and resourceful. He has been advisor and power-broker to former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch;  to current IOC president Jacques Rogge; to kings, princes, statesmen, dignitaries, authorities, officials, and others. Even, on occasion, reporters.

If the United States, meaning in particular NBC and other corporate interests, has provided the financial underpinning of the Olympic movement — Vazquez Raña has been the political mover and shaker from this part of the world, reducing American political influence to the margins.

It has been a fascinating dynamic, really.

Vazquez Raña has not done it with stealth. Everyone in the movement knows full well who he is. But he has done his work, amazingly, speaking mostly Spanish – not so much English and not so much French.

He has always done things his way. To use an American colloquialism — there’s his way or the highway.

Not surprisingly, over the years not everyone has fully appreciated the Mario Vazquez Raña way.

Hence, as he has approached 80, the challenges, and in particular from Al-Sabah and from Hickey, who understandably saw opportunity.

Hickey serves as president of the European Olympic Committees; he is head of the Irish Olympic committee. He would appear to be in line to take over Vazquez Raña’s seat on the IOC executive board pending an ANOC meeting in Moscow in April.

Al-Sabah is believed to be next in line for the ANOC presidency.

“This particular circumstance and the conclusion of my mandate as ANOC president in 2014 have given rise to an outrageous and aggressive race for my succession,” Vazquez Raña said in the first page of the release, in the sixth paragraph, naming both Al-Sabah and Hickey by name, and the release goes on from there to become even more incendiary.

The last two ANOC executive council meetings, in Lausanne in December, 2011, and in London last February, Vazquez Raña said in the release, were the “stages chosen by these persons and their allies to express their personal ambitions, disloyalty, obscure alliances and lack of ethics and principles.”

He added, “This situation is very reprehensible and dangerous for any organization that considers itself democratic and transparent, even more so for a sports organization, where fair play and ethics should prevail.”

The “urgency of this kind of pressure” to put Hickey on the IOC board, Vazquez Raña said, “may only be explained by an excessive personal ambition and the craving for power of their promoters.” Moroever, “I clearly pointed out that I do not consider him a person with the minimum ethical and moral qualities to fulfill that responsibility. His behavior in these events reaffirms my conviction.”

Efforts to reach Hickey, reportedly traveling Thursday in Asia, proved unsuccessful.

As for Al-Sabah, Vazquez Raña alleged that at a meeting held in connection with the Asian Beach Games in Dubai in November 2011, it “is commented, quite strongly, that in order to secure support to his ambitious plans and be able to count with the necessary votes, the Sheikh delivered 50 thousand ‘convincing reasons’ to some sports leaders and it is speculated as well that he used the same procedure at the meetings held in December in Lausanne and in February in London.”

Vazquez Raña added that Kuwait’s national Olympic Committee has been suspended by the IOC for several years because of political interference by the government there with the Kuwaiti sports movement: “The Sheikh would have to be asked with what moral authority he intends to lead the National Olympic Committees worldwide.”

The sheikh could not be reached for comment.

“… As a result of shady alliances and questionable procedures, the betrayal and assault to ANOC and its governing structures were hatched,” Vazquez Raña summed up, leading him to “take the only responsible, serious and honorable road: resign,” a word he wrote in all capital letters,” resign for love and respect to sport, to ANOC, to the NOCs and the Olympic movement. I may never accept and much less tolerate disloyalty and a lack of principles.”

It should be noted that Vazquez Raña is a media mogul. He knows us, and well, in the press. He is so sophisticated that he sent out this release in all four pages in beautiful English — again, not his language.

Tomorrow is another day. Hickey and Al-Sabah will get their turn, and their say.

But on his way out let it be noted that Mario Vazquez Raña did it on his terms. He went out swinging. Hard. The Olympic movement has perhaps never seen anyone like him, or any release quite like this one.

There will be consequences.

See the comments section below for the full four-page statement.

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5 thoughts on “Mario Vazquez Raña resigns

  1. Here, in its entirety, unedited, is Mario Vazquez Raña’s statement:

    March 15th, 2012.
    PRESS RELEASE

    Today, I have submitted to Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, my IRREVOCABLE RESIGNATION as Member of the IOC Executive Board, IOC Member and President of the Olympic Solidarity Commission. Simultaneously, I have submitted to the 204 National Olympic Committees worldwide and to Mrs. Gunilla Lindberg, ANOC Secretary General, my RESIGNATION as President of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

    It has been very difficult for me to take such a drastic decision. For more than 40 years, first as an athlete and then as a sports leader, I have been closely linked to the Olympic Movement. I was founder and President of ANOC since 1979, founder of Olympic Solidarity since 1981 and President of the IOC Olympic Solidarity Commission for the last 12 years. From those positions, great efforts were made to provide, in a significant and increasing manner, further support to the athletes and the National Olympic Committees. The results achieved in the most recent editions of the Olympic Games demonstrate the efficiency of the policy applied throughout these years.

    ANOC is the organization that brings together the National Olympic Committees worldwide; it has a recognized leadership and plays a fundamental role within the Olympic Movement. The position I have occupied as Member of the IOC Executive Board has allowed us to transmit the points of view, suggestions and recommendations of the NOCs, especially the issues regarding the organization and development of the Olympic Games; as well as the function the National Olympic Committees carry out in these Games.

    In more than 30 years of history, ANOC has attained important success and a remarkable strengthening of its operation capacity within the Olympic Movement. Relevant results have been achieved in the Organization’s work, especially with respect to the defense of the autonomy and independence of the NOCs, decentralization towards the Continental Associations and the execution of numerous programs that have contributed to provide a firm support and attention to athletes.

    The Olympic Charter establishes an age limit of 80 years old for the IOC members elected previous to the year 2000, which is my case. The application of this rule means I should cease to be member of the Executive Board at the IOC Session that will be held next July in London and in December 2012 as an active member of the IOC.

    This particular circumstance and the conclusion of my mandate as ANOC President in 2014 have given rise to an outrageous and aggressive race for my succession, headed by two ANOC Vice Presidents: His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the Olympic Council of Asia and Mr. Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees.

    As was informed by some media at the time, though not always as objectively as was necessary, the two last meetings of the ANOC Executive Council, held in Lausanne in December 2011 and in London last February, were the stages chosen by these persons and their allies to express their personal ambitions, disloyalty, obscure alliances and lack of ethics and principles.

    His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and Mr. Patrick Hickey, supported by some members and with the complicit silence of others, imposed on the Executive Council agreements that breach the ANOC Constitution and disavow the decisions taken by the General Assembly. The analysis of the events of the last few months makes evident the existence of agreements that, due to different reasons and interests, derived on the establishment of alliances previous to the Executive Council meetings in order to impose their will through the majority of votes, at margin and disavowing the rules and practices established for the Organization’s operation.

    This situation is very reprehensible and dangerous for any organization that considers itself democratic and transparent, even more so for a sports organization, where fair play and ethics should prevail. It is unacceptable that due to that kind of alliances or by buying votes, it is intended to breach the rules, attempting against the unity and prestige of an organization and damaging the autonomy of the National Olympic Committees. Of course, I have firmly opposed to those kinds of behaviors. I will never accept any procedure that attempts against the Olympic principles and values.

    Which were the proposals they were able to impose with so much urgency and what was their actual objective?

    In first place, considering my upcoming departure as Member of the IOC Executive Board, they imposed the proposal of Mr. Patrick Hickey as the candidate to replace me in that responsibility, with the deliberate objective of conditioning the decision that the General Assembly should take freely and in a sovereign manner. There is no rule in the Olympic Charter and the ANOC Constitution does not foresee any procedure to that end. The urgency of this kind of pressure may only be explained by an excessive personal ambition and the craving for power of their promoters.

    In second place, they were paving the way for Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah to occupy the position of ANOC President when I cease in that responsibility. To that end, the proposal to submit to the General Assembly an amendment to the ANOC Constitution that allows the possibility to appoint, from amongst the 5 Continental Vice Presidents, a Senior Vice President that substitutes the President in his absence was imposed on the Executive Council. This election would be carried out, solely and exclusively, by the 5 Vice Presidents, without any other authority for approval.

    I fully opposed these attempts to breach, by any means, the established rules. In the particular case of Mr. Hickey’s proposal, in addition to the fact that it breaches our rules and practices, I clearly pointed out that I do not consider him a person with the minimum ethical and moral qualities to fulfill that responsibility. His behavior in these events reaffirms my conviction.

    I consider fair and normal that any person aspires to better himself and occupy more relevant positions; what I categorically reject are sly and disloyal procedures and the use of a representation granted by the NOCs to satisfy personal interests, damaging the prestige and image of an Organization like ANOC.

    Regarding the election of a Senior Vice President, in the beginning I thought it was an honest proposal, with no hidden intentions. Therefore, as ANOC President I submitted a counterproposal in which I offered my support to the creation of the position of Senior Vice President, but under the condition that he or she should not represent any particular continent and should be elected by the General Assembly, as is the case with the President.

    The equity and balance of power ANOC has always maintained should not be broken under any concept. It is totally illogical and antidemocratic that only the 5 Vice Presidents elect the President’s substitute; no person, no matter how much power he or she has, may replace the right that corresponds solely to the 204 National Olympic Committees at the General Assembly. No continent should have further prerogatives than the others. A decision of such importance and transcendence may only be adopted by the General Assembly.

    The background of this regrettable and dangerous situation began with the inopportune and false statements to the media by Mr. Patrick Hickey criticizing ANOC, of which he is a Vice President, strongly and unfoundedly, and also criticizing PASO, with which he has nothing to do, expressing his interest to seek a leadership he lacks within the Olympic Movement.

    The aspirations of the ANOC Vice President for Europe coincided with a similar position assumed by the President of the Olympic Council of Asia, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who feels like the natural successor of the ANOC President. To determine the conduct to follow and achieve their shady objectives, they carried out a meeting, evidently conspiratorial, using as an excuse the Asian Beach Games held in Dubai in November 2011, with the presence of some IOC members as a facade and some representatives of the NOCs, headed by the ANOC Vice Presidents for Europe and Asia. It is commented, quite strongly, that in order to secure support to his ambitious plans and be able to count with the necessary votes, the Sheikh delivered 50 thousand “convincing reasons” to some sports leaders and it is speculated as well that he used the same procedure at the meetings held in December in Lausanne and in February in London.

    It is worth noting that His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who wants to preside ANOC, comes from a country whose National Olympic Committee has been suspended by the IOC for several years due to contradictions with its Government. The Sheikh would have to be asked with what moral authority he intends to lead the National Olympic Committees worldwide.

    Starting from that moment and as a result of shady alliances and questionable procedures, the betrayal and assault to ANOC and its governing structures were hatched. Unfortunately, using a pseudo democratic language, hoisting the need for change as a flag and encouraging a confrontation between NOCs and International Federations, they drew with them a group of honest Olympic sports leaders from other continents.

    The behavior at the ANOC Executive Council Meetings in Lausanne and London was the result of a strategy, deliberately planned, in order to attain their ambitious personal objectives, resorting, as may be appreciated, to the violation of the ANOC Constitution, disavowing the General Assembly’s agreements and what is even more dangerous, adopting decisions that correspond solely to the National Olympic Committees.

    As President of ANOC I firmly opposed and rejected such ploys. I defended the ANOC Constitution and the role of the General Assembly as the highest government authority. The calling we made at the Executive Council meetings to respect the current rules, to be prudent and have common sense, fell on deaf ears and they imposed their will by means of their shameful alliance, just as they had planned.

    Consistent with my principles, the ethics I have followed all my life and my clean trajectory within the Olympic Movement, I have decided to take the only responsible, serious and honorable road: RESIGN, resign for love and respect to sport, to ANOC, to the NOCs and the Olympic Movement. I may never accept and much less tolerate disloyalty and a lack of principles.

    As I reiterated in the last two Executive Council meetings, I am not encouraged by any personal interest in this serious and dangerous conflict. I defend, as I always have, my convictions, principles and ethics. I said it at the proper time and today I sustain it and rightly so, that Mr. Patrick Hickey is not the qualified person and does not have the necessary qualities to represent the National Olympic Committees at the IOC Executive Board. Likewise, I have reiterated that the agreements imposed on the Executive Council are fully in breach of the ANOC Constitution and may not be accepted under any circumstance.

    Personally, I regret the situation prompted by the irresponsible and opportunistic behaviors of the protagonists of these events. However, I am absolutely certain the representatives of the National Olympic Committees, at the XVIII General Assembly that will be held in Moscow next April, with their proven capacity and experience shall elect, transparently and democratically, the sports leaders who shall assume the responsibility of heading the Organization.

    These considerations regarding the causes of my resignation, which I put to the disposition of the media today, were duly informed to the President of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC Members, the Presidents of International Federations, the ANOC Executive Council Members and especially, the 204 National Olympic Committees worldwide, who with their vote, by overwhelming majority, granted me the honor and high responsibility to preside, for more than 30 years, the Association of National Olympic Committees.

    The XVII ANOC General Assembly held in October 2010 in Acapulco was a clear example of the recognition and support to the work carried out. The 204 National Olympic Committees worldwide, unanimously and by acclamation, in an act presided by Dr. Jacques Rogge, IOC President, reelected me as President of ANOC for the 2010 – 2014 period and proponed me to the IOC to be Member of its Executive Board as representative of the National Olympic Committees.

    With my decision to resign to my responsibilities within the Olympic Movement I fulfill the request of the L PASO General Assembly held last March the 7th and 8th in Mexico City, during which the representatives of the Olympic Committees of the Americas requested me to leave the international positions I occupied in order to concentrate on chairing the Pan American Sports Organization, a position for which I was reelected for the 2012 – 2016 period.

    I leave the positions I occupied within the Olympic Movement with the satisfaction of having fulfilled my duties and contributing towards the success of international Olympic sport, particularly the Olympic Games. No one may ever point out I used my positions within the Olympic Movement’s direction for personal benefit. On the contrary, during all these years I have devoted time, effort and personal resources to support sport and the athletes and that makes me feel very proud.

    I would like to thank the media for their important and valuable support towards the fulfillment of my responsibilities. I am aware that without this support, it would have been more difficult to attain the success achieved at the IOC, as well as in Olympic Solidarity and ANOC. I feel like a part of you and that is why I may appreciate, like no one else, the value and importance of the work you carry out to inform and educate.

    MARIO VÁZQUEZ RAÑA

  2. And what Vazquez accuses his opponents from doing is how different from what he did to Jose Beracasa and Giulio Onesti?

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