Nick Butler
Nick ButlerAlthough another similarly welcome interlude from the last vestiges of the European winter, a trip to Kuwait, the venue for today's Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Executive Council Meeting, is very different from my last stop on the Olympic merry-go-round in Rio de Janeiro. 

Surprisingly, one of the more striking differences is the weather. In contrast to the searing summer heat in Brazil, the wind is the strongest feature this time around as Kuwait is locked in the midst of a series of dust storms, deeming driving hazardous and walking without sunglasses precarious.

The dust storms can be taken as a symbolic representation of the winds of change blowing their way across the Olympic Movement.  
The ANOC meeting is being held in the new Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Headquarters in Kuwait City, apparently on the very road where Saddam Hussein's tanks rumbled down in one of the iconic images of the First Gulf War two decades ago.

Unlike the laid back chaos of Brazil, Kuwait City appears more choreographed, still reaping the benefits of the country's natural resources but only just beginning to experience the modernisation embraced by several of its Middle Eastern neighbours. 

But much has changed in Kuwait in the two decades since the end of the Gulf War, and once again these changes have been replicated in the Olympic Movement.

Like Kuwait since the Gulf War, the Olympic Movement has come a long way in the last two decades ©AFP/Getty ImagesLike Kuwait since the Gulf War, the Olympic Movement has come a long way in the last two decades ©AFP/Getty Images

In the 1990s the Olympic Movement enjoyed a crescendo of improvement as the boycott and financially-stricken times of the 1970s and 1980s faded into history. The Games had a purpose again and was in many ways a symbol of hope and the new post-Cold War optimism.

But as we saw in the wider world, all good runs come to an end and by the turn of the millennium we had seen the Salt Lake City 2002 corruption scandal as well as a rapid influx in failed drugs tests. 

The 2000s were a period of much-needed consolidation, as Jacques Rogge successfully stabilised the Movement in a 12 year tenure culminating in the success of London 2012.

But with Rogge's successor Thomas Bach now having served his honeymoon period the time for innovation and change has arrived again.

President Bach was on typically exuberant form when speaking during the meeting yesterday. Adopting his usual philosophy of long, rambling answers punctuated with a healthy dose of satire and wit, Bach enthusiastically laid out his platform for change and then for good measure laid it out again, just in case it had not been understood the first time.

Bach has highlighted the three key areas for focus as sustainability, credibility and youth as well as the promotion of all Olympic values. This is thought to entail areas including the composition of sports on the Olympic programme, the process to select bidding cities for the Games, and more measures to tackle the twin scourges of doping and corruption in sport. 

Thomas Bach outlining Agenda 2020 during the IOC Session in Sochi last month ©AFP/Getty ImagesThomas Bach outlining Agenda 2020 during the IOC Session in Sochi last month
©AFP/Getty Images

But the most important element laid out by Bach yesterday was the timetable building up to the IOC Extraordinary Meeting due to be held in Monte Carlo on December 7 and 8.  

Following an inaugural Olympic summit last November, the unveiling of Agenda 2020 in Lausanne last December and then the IOC Session held alongside last month's Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the process is now fully underway.

Next we will see the imminent unveiling of various Commissions ahead of a second meeting of the Olympic summit in July. Working groups will then be set up to discuss all suggested ideas ahead of an IOC Executive Board Meeting in October during which plans will be formalised ahead of ratification in Monte Carlo.

ANOC is being hailed as a key component of this process, as the organisation marks its own reforming agenda in Kuwait with its first meeting of specialised and strategic Commissions and working groups in 31 years. 

Seated alongside Bach was Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, head of the OCA, as well as ANOC, and the key power broker in the Olympic Movement.

"It is a big honour for us to welcome the President of the IOC here to Kuwait," he said as he leaned forward to begin a well rehearsed speech which bore little or no relation to the question he had been asked.

He continued: "I am very proud that President Bach has bravely put a lot of big issues on the table. We have lots to do, and we are working in very close collaboration with the IOC. As President Bach said in Sochi it gives us a great opportunity to maintain open dialogue throughout the Olympic Movement and uphold our main ideals, as well as develop the strong relationships we need to continue our growth and evolution."

There is no doubting Sheikh Ahmad's genuine enthusiasm for change.

Central to this are two events he hopes to introduce next year: an annual ANOC Awards Ceremony as well as his personal pet project of the World Beach Games. Although there are murmurs behind the scenes as to how the Games will fit into an already congested sports timetable, there is genuine enthusiasm from most quarters and none more so from the athletes themselves.

The Games will be held next year as part of a collaboration between ANOC and SportAccord, with their exact time and location due to be announced in July.

They are one such innovation which should benefit the whole Olympic Movement. 

Sheikh Ahmad congratulates Thomas Bach following his election as IOC President last September ©Getty ImagesSheikh Ahmad congratulates Thomas Bach following his election as IOC President last September ©Getty Images

Even though the world is still in troubled economic and political times, the impression I am getting in Kuwait is that the Olympic Movement is in a pretty good place right now.

There are storm clouds gathering ahead, in relation to preparations for Rio 2016, as well as the shrinking number of credible contenders in the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, although the IOC remain publicly confident on both issues.

Yet with the clear impact of last month's Games in Sochi on the development of events in Ukraine, the Movement has also never seemed more politically relevant. New countries, from Kuwait to Turkmenistan are flexing their Olympic muscles because they see hosting sporting events as a way to raise the whole profile of the country, while Bach has the confidence to repeatedly admonish international leaders who use the Games for a personal agenda.

It is therefore fitting that the next stop on the merry-go-round, the SportAccord Convention in the Turkish resort of Belek/Antalya, is to be held in another country featuring highly on the international agenda following the violence which disrupted yesterday's local elections there. 

But as it always has the Olympics is adapting to the times, as well as to new locations such as Kuwait.

And although the pairing of Bach and Sheikh Ahmad could perhaps do with some advice on how to limit the length of their interview answers, they give the impression of each having the enthusiasm, drive and ability to bring about the much-desired reform in a much-changed world..

Nick Butler is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.