Avery Brundage

Sports and politics do mix


At long last, the secret that really is no secret is finally out: sports and politics do mix. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said so, in a speech over the weekend at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. If it is a mystery why it took so long for the IOC president, any IOC president, to articulate the obvious, this IOC president deserves full credit for not just recognizing reality but standing ready to build on it.

Sport needs to acknowledge its relationship to politics and business, Bach said. At the same time, he said, the world’s political and corporate elite must be mindful of the autonomy of sports organizations or run the risk of diminishing the positive influence that sport can carry.

IOC president Thomas Bach (right), with Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah at the OCA general assembly in Incheon, South Korea // photo Getty Images

“In the past,” Bach said, “some have said that sport has nothing to do with politics, or they have said that sport has nothing to do with money or business. And this is just an attitude which is wrong and which we can not afford anymore.

“We are living in the middle of society and that means we have to partner up with the politicians who run this world.”

This is as far from radical as saying that dollar bills are green.

And yet — there has been this fiction that the Olympic movement is, somehow, some way, supposed to be divorced from politics.

As if.

Now we can do away with this fiction, too — just like the one that the Olympics are for amateur athletes. If you think that LeBron James is an amateur, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

Juan Antonio Samaranch saw to the end of the amateur era.

Now Thomas Bach is making it clear to everyone — at least anyone who wants to listen — that, indeed, sports and politics really do mix.

Of course they mix.

The world is full of politics.

We all live in the real world.

Perhaps this fiction goes all the way back to Avery Brundage — like he is supposed to be some great role model — declaring that sport and politics should be kept apart. (Query: would the record suggest that was the case during his years atop the IOC?)

In any event, everyone knows — has always known — that sport is and always has been intertwined with the world in which it moves.

The examples are far, far, far too numerous to list, everything from the political protests and more in Mexico City in 1968 to the terror attacks in Munich in 1972 to Cathy Freeman amid the ring of fire and water in Sydney in 2000 to the hushed silence of the 9/11 flag at the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City in 2002 to the beating of the drums at the opening ceremony in Beijing in 2008, and on and on and on.

Of course, every edition of the Games — which transpires after frantic bidding contests involving multiple countries — involves layers of relationship between entities. All of that is entirely, wholly political.

The issue amid all of this is, and always has been — always will be — how to draw appropriate boundaries.

This theme — establishing it, defining it — has been one of the primary hallmarks of Bach’s first year in office as he and the IOC head now toward the all-members session in December amid the review and potential reform of the “Agenda 2020” process.

Bach has met with 81 heads of state and government. He has developed what seems to be a special relationship with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon, in Incheon calling Ban a “great friend of the Olympic movement … with whom we really enjoy an outstanding partnership and relationship.”

The IOC and UN in April signed an agreement to explore ways to work together. Ban attended both the Sochi Games in February and last month’s Nanjing Youth Games.

In July, with Ban on hand, Bach officially opened the “Sport for Hope” community center in Haiti.

In Sochi, meanwhile, Bach — apparently motivated by President Obama and other politicians who took positions against the Russian law banning gay “propaganda” against minors — said the Olympics should not be “used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests.”

Bach also said, “Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.”

Last November, at the UN, he delivered a speech in which he said the IOC is, itself, not a government. It is, above all, a sports organization — one that seeks to “use the power of our values and symbols to promote the positive, peaceful development of global society.”

He also said that it “must always be clear in the relationship between sport and politics that the role of sport is always to build bridges,” adding, “It is never to build walls.”

Woven throughout that speed were references — as in Saturday’s address in Incheon — to autonomy. That is, the IOC wants sports bodies to be free of governmental interference.

Bach said last November that sport is the “only area of human existence” that has achieved what in political philosophy is known as “universal law” and in moral philosophy as a “global ethic.”

To repeat the example: if you go anywhere in the world and throw down a soccer ball, everyone knows the rules.

Saturday in Incheon, he said, allowing countries to set their own rules for a soccer game would mean that “international sport is over.”

“So we need this worldwide application of our rules to ensure also in the future that sport remains this international phenomenon — which only sport can offer.”


Bach wins the presidency

BUENOS AIRES -- Thomas Bach of Germany was elected president of the International Olympic Committee Tuesday, replacing Jacques Rogge of Belgium. Bach is a gold medal-winning fencer at the 1976 Montreal Games who went on to become a lawyer. He was made an IOC member in 1991 and has served in virtually every position but president. Over the years, he has made no secret of his ambition for the top job.

Now he has it, winning decisively in the second round of voting over five other candidates. He received 49 votes, two more than he needed. Combined, the other five got 44.

Bach, 59, becomes the IOC's ninth president. Eight of the nine have been Europeans. The only exception: the American Avery Brundage, who served from 1952 to 1972.

The new president will serve a term of at least eight years. IOC rules permit the possibility of a four-year second term. Bach said he hoped to lead according to his campaign motto, "Unity in diversity," and declared, "You should know that my door, my ears and my heart are always open for you.''

125th IOC Session - IOC Presidential Election

The intrigue in Tuesday's balloting underscored Bach's support -- completely overt -- from the Olympic world's new No. 1 power-broker, Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah.

Also manifestly at work Tuesday, indeed throughout this landmark 125th IOC session, at which Tokyo was selected host for the 2020 Games and wrestling was put back onto the program for the 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympics:  the influence of Russian president Vladimir Putin. As Bach was making his way down a line of reporters shortly after being elected, Dmitry Chernyshenko's phone rang. He heads the Sochi 2014 organizing committee. It was Putin calling, for Bach, with congratulations.

As one triangulates, let there be no doubt: Sheikh Ahmad is now unequivocally positioned as one of the most influential figures in international sport.

This, too: Bach is certainly European. But to have a key political backer who is head of the Olympic Council of Asia and head of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees is perhaps evidence of a subtle shift in the Olympic worldview.

At any rate, about this there can be no misunderstanding: the IOC election Tuesday completed a turn that through 2013 has seen an older generation of leadership moved aside by younger personalities with different ideas and new energy.

This political master drama, a classical study that academics and operatives alike could learn much from as it played out in real life over more than 10 years, intensifying over the last 18 months, culminated Tuesday in Bach's emphatic ascent.

Out: Rogge, Mexico's Mario Vazquez Raña and, in something of a rebuke to the outgoing president, his former associate, the former International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen of Holland. Verbruggen served Rogge in a variety of roles, including as chief of the Beijing 2008 Games coordination commission; he was also the former head of SportAccord, the umbrella group of international sport federations.

Vazquez Raña and Verbruggen have hardly disappeared from the scene, and to count them out completely -- each entirely accomplished and hugely intelligent -- might well, it is true, be premature. Now, though, the leverage and access are completely different.

In: Bach, the sheikh, the judo federation and new SportAccord president Marius Vizer, who lives in Hungary, and perhaps a handful of trusted others. This, as Bach's mandate gets underway, is the essential new power base of Olympic sport.

Bach defeated five other challengers: Richard Carrión of Puerto Rico, Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, Denis Oswald of Switzerland, Ser Miang Ng of Singapore and C.K. Wu of Chinese Taipei. Only Carrión, the IOC's finance chairman, managed even double-digits in the two rounds of voting.

In Bach, amid a world buffeted by economic, environmental and security challenges, the IOC signaled that it was not looking for transformational change.

While the other five candidates in their campaign manifestoes, or action plans, had proposed suggestions that put the IOC at the center of a variety of wide-ranging global sport and technology initiatives, Bach for the most part focused on the IOC's franchise, the Olympic Games.

"Considering the many challenges ahead, the IOC's focus must be safeguarding the uniqueness and relevance of the Olympic Games in an ever-changing world," Bach had said in his.

He also said that "keeping the Olympic Games the most attractive event in the world for all stakeholders is a top priority for the IOC."

This may not be especially bold. This might not be particularly opportunistic. Then again, the IOC tends to be traditional, especially at big moments. And, given the stakes, it makes fundamental sense when looked at in bright light.

Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, for instance, are now being referred to in influential Olympic circles as "experiment" Olympics. The capital budget for Sochi is already north of $50 billion and the new anti-gay law there has raised concerns in several Western nations. In Rio, construction is running slow and over-budget and, moreover, it was disclosed here that sponsorships are proving hard to sell.

Thus: when the IOC members looked around at this moment in time, what -- most -- did they want?


The Rogge years will likely be viewed, most of all, by one word: stability.

Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain served before Rogge for 21 years. Samaranch is still largely a beloved figure within the IOC. Elsewhere, the first thing that often comes up is the Salt Lake City corruption scandal, which erupted in the late 1990s.

Rogge was elected in large measure to see the IOC through the Salt Lake reforms and to restore the institution's worldwide prestige.

"You have led us through those bad times," Princess Haya al Hussein of the United Arab Emirates, president of the International Equestrian Federation, told Rogge as the assembly closed late Monday, adding he "clearly understood" the IOC's way forward was rooted in "good governance."

She said he had brought "our family out of its darkest times into a good future," years that in time people will come to understand as truly remarkable fiscally, growing the IOC's financial reserves from $100 million to more than $900 million despite the global economic crisis -- enough to survive an entire four-year Olympic cycle, indeed to secure what the princess called a "clear future."

Rogge's response was classic: "I did no more than my duty,"  he said, adding, "What has been achieved is not one man. It is a team. Thank you very much."

Rogge, an orthopedic surgeon by training, came to office on a summer Monday in Moscow in 2001. He was then 59, an IOC member for 10 years, a man of distinct vigor, his hair still dark.

After 12 years in office, he steps down in winter on a Tuesday in Buenos Aires. He is now 71. His hair is grey.

"If you want to achieve something in the IOC, you have to age," he said wryly during the assembly late Monday to Christophe Dubi, the sports director and incoming Games executive director, whom Rogge has always called "young man."

Intensely European himself, Rogge nonetheless oversaw Games for the first time in China (2008) and the IOC's "new horizons" moves to South America (Rio 2016) and, for the Winter Games, Russia (2014) and South Korea (2018).

Rogge oversaw six editions of the Games, three Summer, three Winter and, as well, ushered in the Youth Games, the first Summer edition in Singapore in 2010, the first Winter product in Innsbruck in 2012.

"The fact that I could describe six Olympic Games and two Youth Games as being successful is for me the biggest reward I could have," he said here.

Beyond Salt Lake, Rogge also had to cope with unexpectedly intensified security concerns. The 9/11 attacks took place three months after Rogge took office, just five months before the 2002 Salt Lake Games, and would add security complications to those Olympics and thereafter.

He had to confront a multitude of financial issues. Some involved a lengthy dispute with the U.S. Olympic Committee over certain broadcasting and marketing revenues. They cut a new deal last year.

There were other issues as well: illicit doping and illegal match-fixing, in particular.

Throughout, Rogge remained typically calm, almost always implacable. His management style tended toward the technocratic. It was big on process.

This could be seen in the 12 years of back, forth and sideways over the Summer Games line-up which ended Sunday with the members' vote to reinstate wrestling.

It had been kicked out in February of what was called the "core" group of sports by the IOC's policy-making executive board, then forced to fight with squash and a combined bid from baseball/softball for a place.

Squash has been on the outside looking in for 10 years. Baseball and softball were both once in and now are out. Meanwhile, over the Rogge presidency, the only additions to the Summer Games sports line-up are that, come 2016, golf and rugby-sevens will be played.

Surfing? Skateboarding? Still waiting.

Virtually everyone associated with the Olympic movement agrees the program needs wholesale review.

So, too, the bid city process. The 2020 line-up produced just three finalists -- Tokyo, Madrid, Istanbul -- after four for 2016 and five of the world's great cities for 2012.

Mostly, what the movement needs is simply a dose of new energy.

There are those who say that in Bach, the sheikh and Vizer the movement is heading in ways no one can portend.

Then again, these three also say that they -- along with the head of the Summer Games' federations' association, which goes by the acronym ASOIF, currently Francesco Ricci Bitti of Italy, the international tennis federation president -- can foresee a new way. They say it might open up new avenues of governance and, to be candid, transparency.

Big picture, the IOC is caught in transition between 19th-century club and 21st-century multibillion-dollar business.

The way the IOC is structured, authority has been far too confined between the president, the director-general and remarkably few staff. The model would hardly pass many business-school studies.

Bach surely now has a mandate.

The sole question heading into Tuesday's vote was not whether Bach would win. It was whether he would win on the first round.

"People are turning," one of the soon-to-be defeated candidates had said late Monday night, acknowledging the obvious. "For months they tell you one thing. They look at you in the eye and now tonight they tell you something else. It's very disappointing."

It is an IOC maxim that in the first round members vote for their friends. In the second they get serious.

In the first-round, Bach carried 43. Carrión got 23, Bubka 8, Oswald 7, Ng and Wu 6 apiece. IOC rules put the tie to a run-off; Ng got 56, Wu 36; Ng moved on to the second round, Wu was eliminated.

In the second round, needing 47 votes to win, Bach got those 49. Carrión took 29, Ng 6, Oswald 5, Bubka 4.

The candidacies of both Ng and Wu were apparently hurt by Tokyo's win for 2020. Five times to Asia in 12 years ... Tokyo 2020 just three days ago ... the notion of an Asian president ... it was all, as the as the senior Canadian member Dick Pound put it, "too much Asia, too soon."

Twelve years ago, Rogge -- in a field of five -- won in the second round with 59 votes; runner-up Kim Un Young of South Korea got 23.

If it seems obvious, this is a lesson Samaranch taught, and the sheikh obviously took to heart: relationships are everything, and people like to know that they matter.

This is why the line-up to see Sheikh Ahmad in Room 532 of the Hilton Hotel here throughout the week was non-stop. What was he offering inside? Coffee. Tea. Water.

On Monday evening, wearing a paisley jeans and a shirt, he stopped in front of a coffee bar in the Hilton lobby. For a solid 10 minutes, a stream of well-wishers stopped to chat.

The sheikh, 50, first signaled his strength last year when he took over as president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees, deposing the venerable Vazquez Raña. ANOC represents the world's 204 national Olympic committees. The vote: 174 in his favor, one against, two abstentions.

Last year in London, he helped elect to the IOC executive board both Patrick Hickey of Ireland and one of Tuesday's presidential candidates, Wu.

Earlier this year, he and his team helped engineer Vizer's SportAccord election.

Then, earlier this summer, they saw to it that Buenos Aires won the 2018 Youth Games.

On Saturday, Tokyo 2020.

Tuesday, Bach.

In voting later Tuesday afternoon the sheikh helped elect Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles to the IOC's executive board. She had last served on the board in 2001.

One of the players in one of these dramas was in the Hilton lobby after the presidential election. He was willing to speak but not for the record:  "A new world is open now."


A reflective Jacques Rogge

There are precisely two months to go in Jacques Rogge's term as president of the International Olympic Committee. He is not, at least in public, particularly reflective. History will be as it is. At the end of a teleconference Wednesday with reporters from around the world, the president was asked to assess the highlights and disappointments of his 12 years in office. For once, he seized the moment.

The "biggest satisfaction," he allowed, was that he was "able to positively describe" the six editions of the Games on his watch, three Summer and three Winter, as well as the inaugural Summer and Winter Youth Olympic Games, as "magnificent Games or exceptional Games."

He added, in a nod to his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who served for 21 years, "You know I will never say, 'The best-ever.' "

Rogge then went on, "The worst day was definitely the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili," the Georgian luger killed in a training accident before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, adding, "This is definitely something I will not forget."

At an all-members assembly Sept. 10, the IOC will elect Rogge's successor. Six candidates are in the running to replace him: Ukraine's Sergei Bubka; C.K. Wu of Chinese Taipei; Switzerland's Denis Oswald; Germany's Thomas Bach; Singapore's Ser Miang Ng; Puerto Rico's Richard Carrion.

Two of the presidential candidates are Asian; Carrion is from the Western Hemisphere. All but one of the IOC's presidents -- Avery Brundage, an American -- have been European. Asked by a reporter from Singapore if it would "be good for the IOC to have a non-European president," Rogge replied:

"I don't think this factor will play in the election of my successor. My colleagues will go for the man they think is the most able to lead the IOC. They will not not [factor in] nationality or continent."

Asked a few minutes later about the influence of the IOC member and power-broker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, the president of the Assn. of the National Olympic Committees, who has played a key role in several recent IOC elections and is widely believed to have close ties with Bach, Rogge said, "I have no reason of concern," adding, "I have a very good relationship with him."

Under IOC rules, Rogge is eligible to stay on as a member until 2022, when he would be 80. He said Wednesday, however, that when his successor is elected he will resign his IOC membership and become an honorary member.

It would "not be wise or advisable," he said, to have the incumbent and past IOC president both "running around … and making comments."

He also said he would "not seek to … intervene in the business of the IOC and my successor."

He added, "I will be probably an elder statesman but probably not more than that."

In other developments, Rogge said:

-- The deal sealed last year between the U.S. Olympic Committee and IOC on certain revenue-sharing matters "definitely paved the way" for the nomination announced last week of USOC board chairman Larry Probst to IOC membership. Probst is expected to be made an IOC member at the Buenos Aires session, along with eight others, among them Russian Olympic Committee boss Alexander Zhukov. "We absolutely want a good relationship with the USOC," Rogge said.

--  The three 2020 bids -- Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul -- are "very close to each other" and the final weeks "will be important." The IOC will pick the 2020 city on Sept. 7, also at the Buenos Aires assembly.

-- Expressed confidence in the operational readiness and security preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics: "I am sure they will deliver."

-- Observed that while the leaders of the international wrestling federation, which goes by the acronym FILA, had done "good things," it "remains to be seen" whether wrestling, squash or the combined baseball and softball bid will make it onto the 2020 program. "You understand I will be neutral," he said. This, too, is a decision to be taken in Buenos Aires.

-- Said that while the IOC has "encouraged our friends" at the 2016 Rio organizing committee to "accelerate" preparations, "there is no concern whatsoever" with the Games there just three years away.

Rogge was also asked an intriguing question -- by a Brazilian reporter -- about the recent demonstrations there linked to the Confederations Cup soccer tournament. Were those protests a sign that "big sporting events will have to change as well?"

"Well," Rogge said, "definitely we have to explain very clearly to all the public that the investment made in the Olympic Games is going to be for sustainable legacy for generations to come.

"That is the message that we are sending. We will declare it very clearly in the future. Yes, the Games are a force for the good. Yes, the Games improve society.

"… Most people," he said, "don't know exactly what the investments are."


Ng's moment: symbolism, vision

In a moment rich with symbolism, Singapore's Ser Miang Ng announced Thursday he is a candidate to become the next president of the International Olympic Committee. Ng, 64, made the announcement in Paris, at the Sorbonne, the university where in 1894 Pierre de Coubertin and his invitees met in the Salle Octave Gréard to revive the Olympic Games. There began the audacious idea of making this modern Olympic committee something that might someday be truly, indeed profoundly, international.

Now the movement includes more national Olympic committees, 204, than the United Nations has member states, 193.

The "values of sport," Ng said Thursday, "are tomorrow's living Olympic legacies." At the same time, he said, "The world is changing -- and the movement must evolve with it."

Singapore's Ser Miang Ng // photo Getty Images

Ng's candidacy makes two now in the presidential race. He joins Germany's Thomas Bach, who jumped in last Thursday.

Others expected to make announcements in the coming days include Ukraine's Sergei Bubka, Puerto Rico's Richard Carrión and C.K. Wu of Chinese Taipei.

The deadline for declaring is June 10. The vote is due to be held Sept. 10 at the IOC's all-members assembly in Buenos Aires. The new president will replace Jacques Rogge, who has led the IOC since 2001; Rogge replaced Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain, who served for the 21 years before that.

With one exception, American Avery Brundage, who served from 1952 to 1972, all the IOC presidents have been European.

Even now, the IOC remains traditionally Eurocentric -- 43 of the current 101 members are European -- and Bach is widely presumed to be the front-runner in the campaign.

That said, Ng has for months been traveling the world, quietly sounding out the membership.

Ng's resume, briefly: Successful businessman and diplomat. Former vice president of the international sailing federation. Chair of the organizing committee of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, in Singapore in 2010. Member of the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 coordination commissions. IOC member since 1998 and its current first vice president.

Ng set the stage for Thursday's announcement by meeting Monday with Rogge at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. To then seize the moment by invoking de Coubertin and what Ng called this "historic, sacred place where I am inspired by our past and encouraged for our future" -- it ought to be plain that Ng is savvy, indeed, and can be expected to be a formidable candidate.

Ng said in an interview, "The IOC is strong and on sound footing thanks to the leadership of President Rogge. But definitely we live in fast-changing times, with economic challenges around the world. A lot more can be done; there is a lot more we can do. It will take discussions with members to reach a shared vision; we can go from there. Definitely we are on a shared foundation, a shared footing."

The vision thing is one of three notes that came through loud and clear from the Sorbonne:

One, Ng's emphasis on Olympic values. Young people need to be "at the center of the movement," he said, and the IOC members themselves, "blessed with a wealth of experience and knowledge," must be empowered to work with other stakeholders to "share our strengths."

He talked, too, about "silent heroes" such as Games volunteers and organizing committee staff -- with "inspiring Olympic stories to share," and said the IOC should "help them do so."

Two, while some press accounts will inevitably try to portray him as an "Asian candidate," as if that was some sort of one-dimensional thing,  he said, "I am proud to be Asian but I am also a global citizen."

Ng is Singapore's ambassador to Norway, its former ambassador to Hungary and chaired IOC commissions that chose African and South American cities to host IOC assemblies.

He added, "I understand that the strength of the movement lies within its diverse interests and perspectives -- all of which are valuable -- now more than ever."

Three, Ng for sure can rattle off details of what he would want to do, and in the "manifesto" -- Olympic jargon for to-do plan -- he is already sending to the members there absolutely are details. Some would seem obvious, and he talked about them Thursday: review the size and cost of the Games as well as the sports on the Olympic program.

That Ng's manifesto is already in the mail stands as an immediate, and intriguing, point of campaign contrast with Bach. Bach said he plans to wait until next month to make his platform available to the members.

At the same time, Ng played Thursday to the big picture -- to "goals not yet realized ... summits not yet reached ... and vistas not yet seen."

He said, "The Olympic movement faces an increasingly interconnected world.

"This will require a leader with an inclusive leadership style and worldview based on collective input and decision-making.

"And, this will require a leader who can empower the Olympic movement behind a unifying vision."

In an interview, he elaborated: "I believe this competition is not about me. It's about vision and style of leadership. I believe we need inclusion and a universal leader who is able to take into account all the different views and to empower members to be involved. The movement is bigger than one. The movement is bigger than one's self."

Back to his remarks at the Sorbonne. He closed by saying: "At every Olympic Games, the world comes together in a celebration of what it means to be human, what it means to strive and what it means to share in each other's dreams.

"…The future of the Olympic movement is written in the dreams of young people around the world. It is my most sincere desire to help all young people, everywhere, make those dreams come true. Thank you. Merci beaucoup."


Challenges await IOC's next president

Regular readers of this space know I now have the privilege of teaching at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles. One of the things about being a university professor -- my formal title, by the way, is "lecturer" -- is that for each class they make you write a syllabus. It's not easy. You have to read a lot of books to decide which books you want to use in your class.

Before heading off this week to cover the U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field and then swimming, I have been at work drafting the syllabus for a graduate-school spring 2013 course tentatively entitled "Sports and Society." A book I've run across, and like, comes from two Australian professors, Kristine Toohey and A.J. Veal, "The Olympic Games: A Social Science Perspective," because it not only provides a broad sketch of the movement but also provides excellent context for the issues likely to confront the next IOC president.

This week, it's true, the IOC seems wholly enmeshed in a black-market ticket scandal. But that is temporal. As the book makes plain, the ticket issue will -- like many others -- be confronted, and the IOC will move on.

The IOC has been in existence since 1894. In all those years, remarkably, it has had but eight presidents.

I have been covering the IOC since late 1998. I have known but two presidents: Juan Antonio Samaranch, who held the job from 1980 until 2001, and Jacques Rogge, who has been president since.

Rogge will, by term limit, step down in September 2013. The IOC will elect his successor at a regularly called election at its annual convention, called a session. The location of the session rotates around the world; this session will be held in Buenos Aires.

In about a month, when the IOC gathers in London for the Games, the world will watch Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and the others who will make the XXX Olympiad what it will be for the history books. The IOC will hold a session in London as well and the members will stay on for the Games. Rest assured: the politicking, looking ahead to Buenos Aires, will be just as intriguing.

The list of potential candidates for the presidency is unannounced but fairly obvious. It's a once-every-12-years-opportunity, and the maneuvering has been going on for months now, if not years.

In alphabetical order, and it's important to note that being interested in running does not necessarily mean electable: Thomas Bach of Germany; Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico; Anita DeFrantz of the United States; Rene Fasel of Switzerland; Ser Miang Ng of Singapore; Denis Oswald of Switzerland. There may yet be others.

No Asian candidate has ever been elected IOC president; indeed, with the exception of Avery Brundage, the American who served from 1952-72, every IOC president has been European. Soft-spoken, well-connected, diplomatic, Ng oversaw the enormously successful 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games.

Carrion moves fluidly and fluently between the worlds of business and sports, in Spanish, English and, increasingly, French. In a world buffeted by economic crisis, the IOC has not only weathered the storm but is positioned strategically, thanks in significant measure to Carrion, its banker, a key player in the $4.38 billion rights negotiation with NBC through 2020, and other deals.

Bach comes from an Olympic background; he is a gold-medalist (fencing, 1976). He is a national Olympic committee president (Germany). He has done it all in a long and distinguished career that includes ties to business, law and the Olympics.

The IOC is always about personalities and relationships. One wonders, however, if at some level the 2013 presidential election has to be as much about the issues confronting the movement -- this is why the book is so interesting as background -- and whether the personalities of the potential contenders are best-suited to dealing with those issues.

An explanation:

There are always recurring issues in the IOC scene. For instance -- stadium elephants.

That said, certain issues emerge at particular elections as defining issues in the moment.

In 2001, when Rogge was elected, succeeding Samaranch, the issues confronting the IOC were very different from now.

When the IOC convened for that 2001 session in Moscow, the events preceding and enveloping  that election were largely based on transparency and the dispersion of power.

Rogge won in the wake of the 1998 corruption scandal in Salt Lake City, which then prompted a 1999 50-point IOC reform plan, and in the aftermath of a number of doping scandals, in particular at the 1998 Tour de France, which helped create the World Anti-Doping Agency.


The challenges are not internal but external.

That is, the next president must be prepared to deal with events that come at him (or her) not from an internal sphere (doping, member corruption) but, indeed, from the outside world.

Indeed, the context and speed at which world events are happening is perhaps the No. 1 challenge to the movement.

Just to rattle off a few items: the global recession and euro sovereign debt crisis, the geographical expansion of the Games (2014 Sochi, 2016 Rio, 2018 Pyeongchang, bids for 2020 from Doha and Baku), the growing threat of illegal sports betting.

It is absolutely true that under Rogge the IOC has seen its financial reserves grow from $105 million in 2001 to $592 million in 2010. The IOC is well-positioned to weather one four-year downturn. This largely unheralded, and under-appreciated, development may be one of Rogge's shrewdest plays as president.

The obvious big-picture question is -- what next?

How much debt, for instance, can you throw at the Olympic scene before something goes amiss? How many countries can keep picking up the tab? Was the decision by the Italian government earlier this year not to push Rome forward for the 2020 Games, citing the ongoing European financial crisis, a signal of things to come -- or was it just an aberration?

Eventually, and most likely during the 12 years of this next presidency, some very hard decisions are going to have to be made, and that will have repercussions for everyone, including the Olympic movement.

A corollary:

It would seem readily apparent that the size and expansion of the movement demand greater partnerships. There are bigger opportunities out there. But also bigger potential pitfalls.

Again, any IOC election is at its core about relationships. But this one has to be about more than schmoozing. There's too much at stake for the members to be looking for more than just comfort. The world we live in can often be not a comfortable place.

Munich's would-be 2018 fairy tale

MUNICH -- Five years ago, Germany played host to a great soccer World Cup. Everything worked; after all, this is Germany. Beyond that, for a month, this nation, capable of such melancholy, came alive with optimism and hope. Just a couple months later, a movie debuted that captured that summer's spirit. The movie, from director and producer Sönke Wortmann, is called Deutschland, Ein Sommermärchen -- "Germany, A Summer's Dream."

The movie instantly became a huge hit. It remains a knowing cultural reference, one that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, used here in briefing the press moments before greeting the members of the International Olympic Committee's 2018 Winter Games evaluation commission.

Referring specifically to the "summer fairy tale," the chancellor -- speaking through a translator -- said she believed Munich's bid for the 2018 Games had a "great chance to plan a winter fairy tale," adding, " I believe that since Germany is such a fantastic host, the world can look forward to the Games here in 2018."


The challenge now for Munich, as the IOC commission on Friday wrapped up its month-long tour to the three cities in the 2018 derby, is quite simple. As everyone knows, fairy tales rarely come true.

Just ask that 2006 German soccer team. It finished third.

The IOC is due to pick the 2018 site in a vote on July 6; Annecy, France, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, are now in the race.

There is, to be sure, much for supporters to tout in this Munich bid.

For starters, it's Germany. Things do work here, and work incredibly well.

They proved that with the logistics that made the soccer tournament move in 2006. And again with the track and field world championships in Berlin in 2009. And again just last month with the alpine skiing world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, an hour south of here in the Bavarian Alps, where the skiing events would be held if Munich wins in 2018.


Merkel and the German government at all levels are wholeheartedly behind the bid. For all the blather about landowner and farmer opposition -- there were three lonely protestors standing roadside at one would-be venue here this week. Three protestors isn't even a card game.


German financial support underpins winter sports -- that is, worldwide. Moreover, German fans have proven time and again they are crazy for winter sports. But Germany hasn't had the privilege of staging the Winter Games since 1936, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

If Munich were to win, it would be the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games.


The IOC -- at least until it went for Sochi in 2014 -- has had an affinity in recent years for Winter Games in big cities. See, for instance, Salt Lake (2002), Torino (2006), Vancouver (2010).

Munich not only fits that pattern -- it arguably might be the best of that pattern. It's an easy hour from Gapa, as the ski area is colloquially known, back down to the city.

This week, the IOC could have checked out the poetry slam at the BMW museum; the Bayern Munich soccer game; or, immediately outside their hotel, a funky shrine to pop star Michael Jackson. Or dozens and dozens of world-class restaurants and interesting cultural events.

Gunilla Lindberg, the evaluation commission chairwoman, said at a news conference here Friday night that the group "absolutely felt the atmosphere and the passion for the Games."

"To put it in a nutshell," Thomas Bach, the German IOC vice president and senior bid leader said at a follow-up press briefing, "this is a bid with no risk but fun."

So why is the Munich bid, which has to date raised 29 million euros, about $40 million, said to be the largest amount ever for a non-American bid, widely perceived to be trailing Pyeongchang, with Annecy a distant third?

While $40 million is indeed a lot of money, this was the news in early January: Samsung Group announced plans to boost investment to a record $38 billion in 2011.

That's not fairy-tale money. That's the real deal, nearly 20 percent of South Korea's gross domestic product.

Samsung is, of course, a leading Olympic sponsor.

If that may yet prove the ultimate factor complicating Munich's drive, there may be others.

The Munich bid is premised on the re-use of many of the iconic venues from the 1972 Summer Games -- re-packaging them, if you will, for Winter Games use.

The gymnastics hall where Olga Korbut tumbled her way to four medals, three of them gold, in 1972? Figure skating and short-track speed skating.

The swim hall where Mark Spitz won a then-record seven gold medals? Curling.

That seems cool, right?

Except that the while the IOC tends to talk a good game about "sustainability," it also in recent years has favored bids with huge construction projects.

Witness the construction booms in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and, especially now, the forthcoming sequence of Games -- London (2012), Sochi (2014) and Rio (2016).

All these Games will leave concrete evidence, from the IOC's perspective, of the transformative power of sport on society. And in this race, the Koreans are the ones who have built a brand-new winter resort from scratch, just as they promised the IOC they would do -- and they still have more building to do, including a high-speed rail line from Seoul to Pyeongchang.

Indeed, the Munich 2018 bid bears striking similarities to the campaigns that Great Britain and the United States ran for soccer's 2018 and 2022 World Cups -- in essence, come here, use the venues we already have and make a lot of money.

Didn't work. Russia (major infrastructure boom) and Qatar (immense construction project) won going away.

To be sure, the IOC is not FIFA. At the same time, the IOC has itself shown in the votes for Sochi and Rio its own expansionist tendencies. That's why the Korean tagline is "new horizons."

Will the Munich 2018 bid prove the turning point? Or is it, simply put, up against a relentless geopolitical reality in the international sport bidding scene?

Must it contend as well with distinct IOC politics -- in particular the clear intent of other interests to bring the 2020 Summer and 2022 Winter Games back to Europe? And, as well, another complexity -- Bach's presumed run for the IOC presidency in 2013, and how, if at all, that factors into a 2011 campaign for 2018?

Another potential complication: Munich is promoting a "festival of friendship," and in that regard it's unclear how the use of one more iconic venue, Olympic Stadium, will resonate with the IOC members come July 6.

Everyone knows what happened here in 1972. The stadium is where Avery Brundage, the then-IOC president, declared after the Palestinian terror attack and the deaths of 11 Israelis that the Games "must go on."

Speaking Thursday at the stadium to the evaluation commission, Uli Hoeness, the president of Bayern Munich, noted the "echo of history," and said that coming back in 2018 would offer an "extra dimension" that would be "connecting the past to the future."

If Munich wins, Olympic Stadium is where the 2018 opening and closing ceremonies would take place.

Lindberg, speaking Friday, noted that she and two others on the evaluation commission -- New Zealand's Barry Maister and Japan's Tsunekazu Takeda -- were here in 1972, and came back here this week with "mixed feelings," with "sadness at what happened" but fondness for the "good organization of the Games," adding, "The IOC took a decision to go on with the Games and I think that was the right decision."

As her remarks underscore -- it remains, 40 years later, no simple matter.

In large measure, Munich and Germany have undeniably moved on since 1972, confronting challenges such as the end of the Cold War and reunification. The stadium, meanwhile, has been used for countless numbers of events.

Moreover, the World Cup proved unequivocally that Germany could safely play host to a mega-event and show the world a good time. It doesn't need the 2018 Olympics for that purpose, according to Chris Young, co-author of the 2010 book, "The 1972 Munich Olympics and The Making of Modern Germany," who said it follows that the "vibe of the [2018] bid" is thus not "we have a past we have to deal with" but "we can put on a world-class, great show."

At the same time, the last time much of the world last connected the words "Munich" and "Olympic" was 1972. To think that the 2018 bid will not provoke look-back pieces in the international press, particularly as July 6 approaches, would be naïve.

Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Munich Jewish community, observed, "The Olympic Games of 1972 are, let there be no doubt, especially for Jews, inextricably linked to the attacks of the time. Both from the point of view of drama and of far-reaching impressions, the events were similar to those of 9/11. If now, 36 years later, Olympia were to return to Munich this would certainly not mean that the past has been cut out. Should the Games of 2018 be awarded to Munich, we would, in my mind, connect them also with the Games of 1972 reflecting them. At the same time it is also a matter of showing the world the Munch of today."

Between now and July, the Munich strategy would seem straightforward -- try to seize momentum at the IOC bid-city meeting in mid-May in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Bach leading the way, then build toward the vote.

Asked at the news conference to assess where Munich is now in the race, Bach demurred: "Where we are is difficult to say. We don't want to lead the race all the way. We want to win at the end."