Michael Pavitt

It was extremely telling that a media round table with organisers of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games was held during the four hour long “half-time” update on the progress of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 reforms.

A large percentage of journalists left at the IOC Session, following the departure of many after the award of the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028, seemed to believe they would not miss out on any breaking developments during the update. Generally, they were right.

The vast majority of the update saw officials stand up and tell the IOC Session about how Agenda 2020 had helped them do various things.

Patrick Baumann, who chaired the 2024 and 2028 IOC Coordination Commissions, claimed the Agenda 2020 reforms had led to both bidding cities having a record number of existing venues in their plans for the Olympic Games. Maybe, Patrick, they just used common sense.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto claimed the number of existing venues being used at the Games had shot up from 40 per cent to 60 due to the reforms. He did not mention of course it had been due to their budget having shot up in recent years, making the changes necessary.

The chameleon that is Agenda 2020 allows simply changing due to the need. Justifying not being able to fulfill bid commitments so needing to drastically alter your venue plan, changing the bidding process three-quarters of the way through, developing a women’s development plan and holding ceremonies for re-allocated medals, which could all be linked to Agenda 2020 in some way, apparently.

A personal favourite in the platitudes came from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said in a video that "Olympic Agenda 2020 felt so comfortable for us", referencing their bid for the Games.

I have previously written - and derided - the pointless repetition of the phrase. But even with an open mind you had to conclude that when the update finished, it was hard to think of anything that was actually achieved by going through it in such a drawn-out manner.

Tokyo 2020 were among the organisations to praise the Agenda 2020 reforms ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 were among the organisations to praise the Agenda 2020 reforms ©Getty Images

Arguably the most interesting recommendation made three years ago to establish the Olympic Channel provided one of the more insightful parts. Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting services, gave a list of stats to the members including stating they had over 6.5 million followers on Facebook with engagements reaching 19.2 million, over 6,500 videos broadcast, 500 live events covered, 30 original series and 11 languages.

The growing number of partnerships the Channel has and its future plans, following the establishment of a linear channel in the United States, seemed like an ideal opportunity for members to delve deeper. With no questions asked it felt a missed opportunity to provide some oomph to proceedings.

It would have been fascinating to hear a genuine debate from members about how they view the channel and its future, what they believe its purpose is. Maybe they could have queried how 48 National Olympic Committees across the world came to not have a website yet.

Instead, it felt like a box ticking exercise, building up to Bach’s pre-determined conclusion that they had enjoyed a good "first-half" of Agenda 2020, as he repeated on numerous occasions throughout the update.

Rather than commence what largely amounted to a back slapping exercise, surely it would have made sense for the IOC to have used the Session to seek different ideas, from outside the organisation, rather than the same few voices.

Would it not have been better to have a speaker from one of the "No Olympic" groups which have been set up in recent years to discuss why they were passionately opposed? It would be a risk, certainly, but if the IOC showed itself to be willing to take on board ideas expressed by groups, such as the ones which sprung up in Boston, Hamburg or Budapest, they would be seen as far more open to discussing the issue.

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski gave a keynote speech to the Session ©Getty Images
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski gave a keynote speech to the Session ©Getty Images

Certainly, there would be the potential for some awkward questions for the IOC to answer, but they would be showing a commitment to ensuring the Games' place in the future.

While it was nice for the Peruvian President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to deliver a keynote speech, you have to ponder as to whether it is an opportunity wasted not to invite a no campaigner and show the organisation being proactive.

Proactivity was one of the concerns raised during the IOC Session, with veteran member Richard Pound calling for the organisation to be more proactive than reactive in dealing with bidding and corruption problems. Britain’s Adam Pengilly, St Lucia’s Richard Peterkin, New Zealand’s Barry Maister and Pierre-Olivier Beckers of Belgium also raised the issue surrounding ongoing corruption scandals.

Bach would point to the appointment of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as their Ethics Commission chair as a sign they were strengthening their processes, but the IOC President has shown a fondness for deflecting questions on corruption issues but stating that the IOC are “partie civile” to French investigations and would take action when required.

While it is fine to wait for the evidence to emerge, you wonder whether the IOC do need more bite in trying to get to the bottom of the issues. However, it is fair to say sitting tight has worked well for Bach regarding the Russian doping crisis in recent months, at least in a political sense.

The German has been able to sit on the fence while both the IOC Commissions led by Denis Oswald and Samuel Schmid investigate the Russian doping crisis. While Bach has repeatedly stated they would wait for the Commissions to finish their work, it certainly feels that behind the scenes the outcome is only heading in one direction - that Russia will be at Pyeongchang 2018.

IOC officials dismissed calls by 17 National Anti-Doping Organisations for Russia to be banned on Friday (September 15), with World Anti-Doping Agency President Sir Craig Reedie stating that the demand had been "unhelpful".

A change to the IOC Charter allowed for the organisation to fine individuals and teams ©Getty Images
A change to the IOC Charter allowed for the organisation to fine individuals and teams ©Getty Images

The unity on the issue by the IOC and WADA appears to make it unlikely Russia would miss the Games, with Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov expressing his confidence they would attend.

In a Session in which none of the bids had any rivals, from the double award 2024 and 2028 Olympics to the confirmation of the Milan as the host of the 2019 IOC Session, it was arguably an addition to the Olympic Charter was the most important thing actually decided here.

The move to include a statute which allows them to fine individuals and teams for offences, including doping and competition manipulation was an important one. It had been widely expected that Russia would not be banned and would instead be sanctioned with a fine. The mechanism to impose this punishment now exists.

While the IOC have rejected reports that they have taken any decisions on what punishment to give to Russia, the change certainly opened the door for the option to be used in the coming months.