David Owen: The stealth campaign to succeed Jacques Rogge

Tuesday, 30 April 2013
David Owen head and shouldersIt's election time in the Olympic Movement, with four big decisions due to be taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) between now and September.

Readers of insidethegames could hardly fail to be aware of two of these: which city - Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo - will host the 2020 Summer Games; and which one of eight candidate sports will be added to the 2020 programme.

Knowledge of a third big decision - the identity of the host of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games - must be pretty widespread as well, with Buenos Aires, Glasgow and Medellín due to learn on July 4, fewer than 70 days from now, which one of them is to be entrusted with the responsibility.

But it is just possible that the approach of the fourth and final day of judgement might have escaped your attention.

This would be a pity, since it is by far and away the most important of the quartet.

On September 10 in Buenos Aires, IOC members are due to pick their new leader - the man, or woman, who could act as their public face and guiding light all the way until 2025.

In contrast to the other three contests, in which campaigning by the interested parties has become vociferous and incessant, the race to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC President is being prosecuted, for now, entirely under the radar.

Jacques Rogge in front of Olympic ringsJacques Rogge has suggested that his successor as IOC President should be paid a salary

This is because nobody has yet declared.

Nobody, moreover, is likely to do so more than a week or two before the June 10 deadline.

One of the few public reminders that the momentous decision is looming came some days ago, when Rogge told a German newspaper that he thought the IOC Presidency should in future be a paid position.

It is hard to see this as anything other than a positive suggestion that would help with the ongoing modernisation of a still sometimes staid and old fashioned-seeming organisation - provided it is accompanied by reform of the current expenses regime.

At present, as set out in the IOC's interim report 2009-2010, "the members, the President and the Executive Board of the IOC are not remunerated by the IOC".

However: "the IOC covers all expenses related to the execution of their functions, in particular travel, hotel, meal expenses and a daily allowance for out-of-pocket expenses, as well as a fixed amount for their personal administrative expenses".

These costs, the report goes on, are "included in session, commission and mission expenses in the statement of activities".

Note 17 of the IOC's financial statements quantifies these particular expenses at $10.86 million (£7.01 million/€8.32 million) in 2010.

In addition, the IOC covers the cost of the President's residence expenses – room rent, living expenses, residence taxes, insurance.

These reached a whisker under $600,000 (£387,000/€460,000) in 2010.

I suppose one would also wish to be assured that the President's new salary was pitched at a reasonable level.

Under the existing regime, the IOC director general, the President's chief of cabinet and the executive director of the Olympic Games received salaries and short-term benefits of about $1.8 million (£1.2 million/between them in 2010.

It is also worth pointing out that the IOC's total staff costs have been rising rather rapidly in recent times, at least in US dollar terms - from $43.1 million (£27.8 million/€33.1 million) in 2006 to $65.3 million (£42.2 million/€50.1 million) in 2010.

Reverting to the Presidential race proper, the latest intelligence to have reached me from the stealth campaign being waged across the world at the moment in the corridors and hotel lobbies where international sports grandees gather is that there could, once again, be five candidates, just as there were in 2001 in Moscow when Rogge was himself elected.

Thomas Bach of Germany is widely seen as the front-runner.

Thomas BachThomas Bach is the favourite to succeed Jacuqes Rogge as IOC President - even though he has not yet said officially whether he will stand or not

It struck me as interesting, in the context of the election, that Bach was reported last week as claiming that the IOC Executive Board should be flexible when deciding how many of the 2020 Olympic bid sports will next month be shortlisted.

It is looking increasingly likely, as I write, that Bach will face two Asian rivals.

Singapore's Ser Miang Ng acted as President of the Organising Committee of the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games three years ago, one of the highest-profile initiatives of the Rogge era.

Taiwan's Ching-Kuo Wu, President of AIBA, the international boxing association, may also throw his hat into the, um, ring.

Richard Carrión of Puerto Rico, one of the key figures behind the Movement's remarkable recent financial success, appears much the most likely IOC member from the Americas to emerge as a candidate.

Sergey Bubka, the former champion pole-vaulter from Ukraine, could complete the quintet.

Everything, though, for the moment, remains fluid: some of these five men may not, ultimately, be on the start-line; other names may emerge.

Readers will notice, no doubt, that my highly tentative list includes no female candidate and no-one with French as their first language.

Either lacuna, if confirmed, would be a cause for some dismay.

David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 World Cup and London 2012. To follow him on Twitter click here.
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