By Tom Degun at the Lenexpo Exhibition Complex in St Petersburg

Hein VerbruggenMay 30 - Hein Verbruggen has promised to stay out of the race between International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Bernard Lapasset and International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marus Vizer to succeed him as the head of SportAccord.

Verbruggen, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) honorary member, has been SportAccord President since 2004.

The controversial 71-year-old Dutchman has faced criticism in recent months for overseeing the controversial Lance Armstrong doping period in cycling when he served as International Cycling Union (UCI) President from 1991 to 2005.

Verbruggen's nine years as SportAccord President, however, are largely seen as a success that have seen him help turn the body into a major brand that serves as the umbrella organisation for all Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations as well as organisers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.

Verbruggen has refused, publicly at least, to back either Lapasset or Vizer when the two candidates stand to replace him here tomorrow.

Marius Vizer receiving giftMarius Vizer has set out a radical agenda if he becomes the new President of SportAccord, including a a united World Championships every four years

"I don't really want to speak out on the two candidates," Verbruggen told insidethegames here.

"I have told myself, promised myself in fact, that I will remain totally neutral.

"I would like to maintain that stance.

"I think it is much better for everyone if I do that."

Verbruggen is thought to be privately backing Lapasset to succeed him, as are the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

But Vizer has strong support from many of the non-Olympic international sports federations in what is set to be a very close contest.

Verbruggen claimed he was just pleased to be handing over the organisation in a strong position and is hopeful his successor will continue to serve its members.

"I'm obviously happy with how SportAccord and the Sport Accord Convention have developed very well over the last 15 years.

"SportAccord is a service operation and I hope that both candidates can ensure it remains that way, whoever is elected.

"Problems for International Sports Federations have increased over the years and the challenges have grown with that.

"Some of the federations aren't well-equipped to deal with that which is one of the reasons why we have SportAccord, to help support those that are in need.

"My hope is that the new President will continue to ensure SportAccord continues in this way."

The final days of lobbying have been marked by a row after Vizer was told that, under the rules of the election, he would not be allowed to show a video to the Congress that he had produced which laid out his plans for a united World Championships to be held after four years in a single country (see below).

But the Hungarian-based Vizer remains confident that his idea will swing the ballot his way.

"The values of sport and transform them in goods for the benefit of society and in financial resources for continuous development, in order to ensure everybody's access to the sports movement, thus contributing to a better and more just world and consolidating a supreme value of society, sport in all its forms and the Olympic Movement," he said.

Lapasset's vision is much less radcial, but he claims more realistic.

Bernard Lapasset profile 2International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset is seen as the outsider in the race to become the new SportAccord President

"My vision is one that embraces all the Federations, gives them a strong voice and harnesses the power of sport for the benefit of all sports," said the Frenchman.

"If I am successful, I will work to ensure that SportAccord leads the sporting agenda.

"It must be the voice of sport, listen to its members and be at the forefront of tackling the issues that sport faces today, including what I believe is sport's greatest current challenge, the protection of its integrity.

"I will not make false promises.

"We have to move forward in partnership, with ambition, realism and sustainability as our goals.

"My vision is about the long term development of Sport Accord and initiatives to strengthen the organisation with realistic and achievable goals."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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