Tom Degun: The changing face of the BOA

Friday, 09 November 2012
Tom Degun ITG2In terms of elections this week, there was obviously one that dominated the headlines.

It was of course the US Presidential election.

The world watched as incumbent Barack Obama saw off challenger Mitt Romney for the most powerful role on the planet.

In the Olympic world, the result is undoubtedly positive for America.

Obama, and First lady Michelle, are close friends of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the result this week means that there are likely to be two powerful supports when America bid for either the 2024 Summer Games or 2026 Winter Games – most likely the former.
 
Obama Barack Obama’s victory in the US Presidential election has dominated the news

But anyway, that is another story.

There was in fact, another election this week that wasn't nearly as competitive as Obama versus Romney.

It was the election that saw Sebastian Coe stroll into the position of British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman unopposed.

Originally he faced competition from Richard Leman, the President of GB Hockey.

But Leman wisely decided that to take on the London 2012 chairman following arguably the best Olympics and Paralympic ever was not a brilliant idea as he decided to stand aside and let Coe take over by acclimation.

Vacating the BOA hot seat was Colin Moynihan, who decided to step down after seven years in the role.

In those seven years, Moynihan has not exactly been shy and retiring.

His public attacks have ranged from blows on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in his laudable campaign for life-time bans for drug cheats to Coe's London 2012 Organising Committee.
 
ColinMoynihanColin Moynihan has often been a controversial figure in his time as BOA chairman

His row with London 2012 revolved around the Joint Marketing Agreement for the Games and the funding of the Paralympics. Moynihan had called for more money earmarked for the Paralympics to be given to the BOA before the dispute was eventually resolved in April last year.

During the height of the row, an irate Coe was heavily questioned by the media about his feelings for Moynihan.

It is perhaps the only press conference of Coe's I have attended where he has genially lost his cool and he simply couldn't fail to hide the fact that he no longer considered Moynihan a friend.

Since that dispute in 2011, Coe and Moynihan have not been seen together publically.
 
sebastian-coe-006Sebastian Coe has not always seen eye-to-eye with Colin Moynihan despite their long affiliation

It was something that was on my mind when I spoke to Moynihan at the BOA headquarters on what was his last full day as chairman.

Greeting me with a warm smile, he answered all of my questions with the relaxed nature of a man who was stepping down from a challenging position.

But when my question came on his friendship with Coe, I felt very much like I was getting a politician's answer – which was hardly surprising given that I was speaking to a Conservative Peer who was formerly the Sports Minister.

"That particular issue didn't affect our personal relationship at all," he told me.

"I have known Seb since before we went to the [Moscow] Games in 1980 together and he has been a good friend and colleague over the last 30 plus years.

"That has always been the case. Hosting a home Games was always going to lead to some differences of interpretation but nothing that impacted on our personal relationship in anyway."

I wonder if Coe sees it the same, or perhaps, when not speaking to the media, Moynihan does either.

The acid test came the next day.

Coe was elected and he and Moynihan sat together for a press conference.

To my recollection, it was the first press conference in which two had sat directly next to each other since one they staged in Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
 
DSCF3172The BOA press conference this week is the first time Sebastian Coe and Colin Moynihan have been seen together publicaly for a long time

There was no clear animosity between two, who after all are two of Britain's most influential sporting administrators of the last two decades.

Without looking like brothers in arms, or even making any slight attempt to, Moynihan wished Coe "the best of luck" and Coe thanked Moynihan.

Noticeably, Coe did not wax lyrical about his predecessor. He said that he admired the fact that Moynihan had always put athletes at the heart of BOA operations and his strong stance to drug cheats but that was all. There was unsurprisingly no glowing character reference.

With that, it was all over.

Moynihan left quietly, and almost rather anti-climatically for somebody who has dominated the sports pages with his outspoken views for the last few years.

Coe took over as BOA chairman with little fuss.

What is means for the BOA in the coming years is intriguing.

With the BOA in financial trouble, Coe is likely to cut staff to reduce costs. The wheels are already in motion in that respect, with Sir Clive Woodward's departure being the notable one. What will happen to BOA chief executive Andy Hunt, Moynihan's key appointment, will be interesting.
 
Sebastian CoeThe marketing value of the BOA is likely to soar with Sebastian Coe as chairman

The BOA's marketing value is also likely to soar. With the Olympic Rings, they will be tracked by many high profile sponsors and having Coe, the symbol of London 2012, at the helm will only increase that value.

As for Coe himself, things are equally fascinating.

Right now, his stock could not be higher and the double 1500 metre Olympic champion is one of Britain's few sporting administrators who is loved internationally by all.

On my trip to Sochi last week, I ran into several International Olympic Committee (IOC) members licking their lips at the prospect of getting Coe a ticket into their exclusive club now that he is a National Olympic Committee (NOC) chairman.

One even told me that he thinks Coe could be the IOC President in eight years' time.

His more obvious route into the IOC is becoming International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President with incumbent Lamine Diack likely to step down in around three years' time.

But with Coe, don't be surprised if the IOC finds a loophole to get him there sooner.

Not long ago, Britain's IOC vice-president Sir Craig Reedie - one of Britain's four current IOC members - told me he would be "very comfortable having Seb as a member" while another IOC member, Switzerland's Denis Oswald, told me he would be "very happy if he could join us [in the IOC] soon."

It is clear with that with Seb as the new face of the BOA, Olympic sport in Britain is in a good place.

But I shall leave the final word to Prime Minister David Cameron.
 
David Cameron and Sebastian CoePrime Minister David Cameron was one of the first to congratulate Sebastian Coe on becoming the new BOA chairman

It is rare that the Prime Minister would comment on an individual being elected as an NOC chairman.

But Coe is no ordinary chairman, and Cameron was happy to applaud the man he appointed as his Olympic legacy ambassador in the press release the BOA sent out this week.

"Seb Coe demonstrated inspirational leadership in delivering the best ever Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer and as a double Olympic gold medallist himself there can be no better choice for BOA chairman," Cameron said.

"He fully understands the support that athletes and sports governing bodies need in this country.

"Combined with his role as the Government's legacy ambassador Seb will play a crucial part in maximising the benefits from London 2012, helping our athletes achieve gold in Rio and British businesses win new trade and investment deals."

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames
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