Liam Morgan

Former Manchester United captain turned criticiser-in-chief Roy Keane is famous for his no-nonsense quotes and one of them got me thinking about the Olympic Movement.

In an ITV documentary in 2013, Keane, reacting to a comment from his old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson in the Scot's autobiography, said he was insulted by some of the adulation he received and compared it to "praising the postman for delivering letters".

Ignoring the aggressive tone in which it was delivered, Keane's viewpoint is an interesting one - that he hated being revered for simply doing his job.

This is where the Olympic Movement, where backslapping and lavishing praise on senior officials is actively encouraged, comes in. Its members clearly do not share the view of the former Irish midfield general.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach this week received an honorary doctorate from the University of Gdansk for "building the Olympic Movement", the very entity he is tasked with overseeing. 

Of course, administrators who do a good job in any industry should be praised but few, apart from the odd loyalist, would say Bach has been a complete success since his election as President in 2013.

At last month's Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly, a meeting notorious for the gushing rhetoric displayed by the membership to the top brass, the Moroccan delegate stood up unprompted to wax lyrical about the great job being done by Bach.

IOC President Thomas Bach is no stranger to accepting awards and receiving praise ©IOC
IOC President Thomas Bach is no stranger to accepting awards and receiving praise ©IOC

There have been countless other examples in the past. Instead of offering worthy interventions, asking legitimate questions and holding the IOC and others to account, the delegates too often turn up purely to provide a public show of affection for the President in the hope the favour will be returned in future.

The result? Far too many of these gatherings end up being little more than talking shops, where all the main decisions have been predetermined and genuine debate is a rarity.

It is a theme apparent throughout other conferences and events across the Olympic spectrum.

Last week, the International Federation (IF) Forum took place in Lausanne - billed as an annual meeting of the great and the good of the Olympic world - and was held under the banner of "athlete-centred sport".

Quite what sport is if it is not "athlete-centred", I am not entirely sure, although that is often lost among the bluster and ego-driven nature of some of those who govern it.

Either "athlete-centred sport" should be the theme of the IF Forum every year, or it is too obvious to be an appropriate tagline. I tend to lean towards the latter.

Put simply, the attendees at the IF Forum - and the vast swathes of other conferences spread across the Olympic calendar - should put athletes at the centre of what they do. It is their job.

Yet the attendees leave with a genuine belief that they have somehow contributed to their main mission purely by being there. They then congratulate each other for their great commitment to sport, to the Olympic Movement and to athletes, when in reality next to nothing tangible has been achieved.

I am not suggesting these types of events do not have a place in the world of sport. They are good meeting points and offer officials the chance to debate key issues which have an impact.

They can also be invaluable for us in the media as they allow us to ask questions directly to key administrations - when we are allowed into the sessions, that is.

But they are often populated by an irritating trend of the same people saying the same things, occasionally in a slightly different way, until the next edition of that event or a similar circus rolls into town.

All of this while athletes, who are supposed to be at the forefront of their thinking, continue to struggle with the same issues - a general feeling of being ignored by the powers-that-be and, in drastic cases, fearing sports organisations are incapable of protecting them and ensuring their safety.

It would be better if concrete aims and plans were put in place at these events. Instead, you get the feeling the words spoken fail to reach further than the echo chamber in which they are delivered.

ANOC General Assemblies are notorious for their displays of adulation towards the leadership ©Getty Images
ANOC General Assemblies are notorious for their displays of adulation towards the leadership ©Getty Images

It is also far too easy for the likes of Bach to step up to a lectern and give a speech promising the world to sport's most important stakeholders. It is much harder to deliver on those promises.

Speaking during the opening of the IF Forum, Bach said: "This [athlete-centred sport] is a topic very close to all of us. Athletes are not only at the heart of the Olympic Movement. They are the heart of the Olympic Movement."

Some might suggest Bach, and sport in general, has a funny way of showing it.