Alan Hubbard: Will the IOC remain largely a preserve of the rich, the venerable – and the male?

Friday, 07 December 2012
Alan HubbardA visit to Athens this week confirmed the view that the future of London's Olympic Stadium must involve a football club. Without the presence of the round ball game the stadium which gloriously hosted the Olympic Games of 2004 would now be as much an old ruin as the Acropolis or the Parthenon.

Shabby and run down it may be, like the Greek economy, but at least it is in regular use, then Greek Super league clubs Panathinaikos and AEK sharing it on alternate weekends. Without football it would be as much a white elephant as several other now derelict venues that helped produce such a memorable Games eight years ago.

This has to be the lesson for London, which is why the mayor is wrong when he declares "the Stadium will have a future in any event" should the new deal with West Ham United not work out.

Oh no it won't, Boris.

Should that happen the Greeks have a word for it. Chaos.

The Greeks have words for many things of course, and some date back to the decrees of Ancient Greece and the birth of the original Olympic Games.

A few days spent in the sadly impoverished cradle of both the ancient and modern Games brought reflections on how far they have  come since the days when women were barred from competing in- or even watching - the Olympics.

London demonstrated this year that in almost all respects sexism, like racism, has been firmly extinguished that equality is now the Olympic buzzword.

Although not quite.

For all its attempts at modernisation the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains largely a preserve of the rich, the venerable – and the male.

Jacques Rogge IOC President at the executive board meeting in LausanneJacques Rogge at the opening of the Executive Board meeting in Lausanne earlier this week

A few women members now tread the corridors of power but a high heel has yet to step purposefully through the glass ceiling that covers the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

By that I mean no woman has ever come close to being considered a candidate for the most prestigious office in world sport – the Presidency of the IOC itself.

But could this be about to change next year, when Jacques Rogge steps down after eight years in which he has overseen many commendable changes in the way Olympic sport is governed.

Who will succeed him?

The thought occurs that if Lord Coe was currently an IOC member the question might be superfluous as he surely would be as much a shoo-in as he was for the chair of the British Olympic Association (BOA) - installed by acclamation after the stupendous success of London 2012 and the personal global esteem that now engulfs him.

Next time, maybe.

Instead, while none have yet formally declared their intention to run for the election to be held at the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires next September, we have mainly the usual suspects who, as they say on those TV talent show polls, are, in no particular order:

Thomas Bach, 59, long-serving vice-president, former German Olympic fencing champion and loyal henchman to Rogge, who is believed to be the strongest candidate and current favourite.

Thomas Bach of GermanyGermany's Thomas Bach is favourite to take up the IOC Presidency

Richard Carrion, 60, a Puerto Rican banker and financial expert who chairs the IOC Finance Commission.

Denis Oswald, 65, former Swiss rower well-known to London for his diligent overseeing of the 2012 Coordination Commission.

Wu Ching-kuo (aka Dr C K Wu), 66, ambitious reformist Taiwanese head of international boxing body AIBA whose latest edict is to remove the word amateur from the sport in attempt to control all aspects of boxing.

Ng Ser Miang, 63, Chinese-born Singaporean diplomat and former Olympic sailor who won plaudits for organising then 2005 IOC session where London won the 2012 bid, and hosting the successful Youth Olympics in Singapore.

All men of a certain age, and one disadvantage Messrs Carrion, Wu and Ng are that they are non-Europeans. Only one of the nine IOC presidents of the modern Games – the awful American "Slaverty" Avery Brundage- has come from outside Europe.

Denis Oswald the IOC coordination committee Jacques Rogge IOC President and Christophe de Keeper IOC director generalDenis Oswald (left) presided the IOC's Coordination Commission for London 2012

Time for a change of Continent?

Unlikely. But nowhere near as titanic a turn-up as a change of sex.

For I hear there is growing campaign to get the woman who arguably has done more than anyone for female emancipation in Olympic sport to stand for the IOC Presidency.

Nawal El Moutawakel was never shy of putting her best foot forward as a runner, pioneering the historic breakthrough when winning the inaugural women's 400 metres hurdles event at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

In doing she became not only the first Moroccan but the first African, Arab and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

Although she had been an accomplished runner, the victory of El Moutawakel, then a student at Iowa State University in the USA, shocked her nation.

Previously she had been verbally abused, and even spat upon as she ran barefoot through the streets of Casablanca.

But attitudes changed sharply when King Hassan telephoned his congratulations, and declared that all girls born the day of her victory were to be named in her honour.

Nawal el Moutakawel of MoroccoNawal El Moutawakelof Morocco made history in 1984 when she became the first Moroccan, African, Arab and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal

Subsequently she became a high-flying businesswoman, then Morocco's Minister for Sport and an IOC Executive Board member, perhaps best known for leading the Evaluation Commission for the 2012 Games.

Very much an Anglophile, she always carried a torch for London - literally so when running a leg of the torch relay Westminster this year.

Coe always believed she was instrumental in helping sway then decision London's way in 2005.

At 50 she remains the iconic a role model for women's sport, for which she has consistently broadened the parameters.

Fourteen years ago she organised the first Moroccan women's 10 kilometres race in Casablanca which now attracts more than 30,000 participants annually. All women. The men - husbands, brothers and neighbours - now cheer from the windows and roadsides. It is a remarkable display of sorority in a predominantly Muslim country.

Nawal el Moutakawel IOCCould Nawal El Moutawakel who is such a iconic a role model for women's sport, take over from Jacques Rogge?

"Sport has given me so much that whatever I give back it will never be enough," she has said

I hope El Moutawakel puts on her running shoes again – this time for the top job in global sport. Madame President.

An African head of the IOC – and a woman to boot?

Now that really would propel sport into the 21st century.

And the Greeks have a word – or two- for it, Καλὴ τύχη

That means Good, Luck.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire
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