Anita DeFrantz has always been an ardent believer in the power of the Olympic movement to do good.
The question now is whether the members of the International Olympic Committee, her peers, are believers in Anita DeFrantz.
DeFrantz, 59, of Los Angeles, has sent a letter to her IOC colleagues that she will be a candidate for the policy-making executive board at the IOC’s forthcoming session in London next month.
She said in a telephone call last week from Lausanne, Switzerland, “It’s important for the United States to be part of the movement. I just want to serve the Olympic movement, being a true believer and all. I have said it and I will continue to say it.”
Some may cast the election as a test of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s standing in the aftermath of the deal it struck with the IOC that resolved a longstanding dispute over marketing and broadcasting revenue shares.
It really, though, marks a test of where DeFrantz, who has been an IOC member since 1986, stands.
DeFrantz is going to be an IOC member, absent a health crisis or other catastrophe, until 2033, and though she previously has been an IOC vice president, that was — viewed now — a long time ago.
DeFrantz is an Olympic bronze medalist, in rowing, at the 1976 Montreal Games. In 1980, she was a leader of American athlete opposition to the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Games.
She joined the staff of the Los Angeles Games organizing committee in 1981 and planned and operated an Olympic Village in 1984. Two years later, she was made an IOC member.
Even her work life has revolved around the Olympic scene. She joined the staff of what is now called the LA 84 Foundation and was elected its president in 1987. It has overseen the distribution of millions of dollars in grants to youth sports clients in Southern California.
Under the presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch, DeFrantz seemed a rising star in IOC circles. She served on the executive board from 1992 through 2001 and as a vice president from 1997 through 2001. She was the IOC’s first female vice president.
DeFrantz has for years played a leading role in urging the IOC to move toward equality on issues involving women’s rights, both on the field of play and in the executive suite. She has chaired the Women and Sport commission since 1995. This past spring, she helped lead a IOC convention in Los Angeles on women’s issues in the movement — an event that was well-received and that assuredly helped convince her the time was right to run again for IOC office.
In 2001, at the IOC session in Moscow, she ran for the IOC presidency itself. She received but nine of 107 votes — dead last.
In 2007, at the session in Guatemala City, she ran for the executive board. She received six of 92 votes. Again, dead last.
In Guatemala, she said, “I am stunned. I hope this is not something to suggest women can never be elected to the executive board again. I will remain stunned for a while.”
Two women currently serve on the board: Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco and Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden.
In Guatemala, the revenue issue was clearly burbling, just as it would play a key role in Chicago’s first-round exit in 2009 for the Summer Games 2016 vote.
Now that’s no longer on the table, and so the vote — however it turns out — will be a referendum on DeFrantz herself.
Including DeFrantz, the early math suggests perhaps six candidates for three EB positions. One is likely to be Sergei Bubka of Ukraine. He usually runs strong. So then figure five for two. One other — Willi Kaltschmitt of Guatemala — is from the Americas.
The election is due to take place July 26, the final day of the IOC session. The opening ceremony of the Games takes place the next evening.