David Owen

Unusually, it seems appropriate to start this week's column in the same place as last: Athens in June 2021 at the scheduled International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session where IOC President Thomas Bach is expected to come up for re-election.

"Was expected…" may now be the apposite phrase.

The postponement until July/August 2021 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would appear to place a large question-mark over the timing of this Greek gathering and its hugely symbolic sequel – a planned visit to Ancient Olympia.

I suppose technically the meeting, originally scheduled for June 21 to 27, could still just about take place.

But you would normally expect another Session to start just ahead of the Games, and then yet another in advance of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games at the very beginning of February.

In any case, would it be sensible to ask members to focus on whether or not Bach deserves a second term at a time when – who knows? – the current pandemic may still be rampaging through some parts of the world, and high-pressure decisions relating to the rescheduled Tokyo Games may still need to be taken?

There are now doubts on when Thomas Bach could stand for re-election as IOC President ©Getty Images
There are now doubts on when Thomas Bach could stand for re-election as IOC President ©Getty Images

This question would be even more warranted in the unlikely event that a challenger emerged, entailing the distraction of a campaign at what might be a critical moment in modern Olympic history.

So what to do?

You could simply move the decision on whether to grant the German four more years to a pre-Games Session in Tokyo.

But would that really be fair on long-suffering Japanese organisers, particularly, once again, if there were an alternative candidate?

Also that set-piece visit to Olympia would have to go.

I wonder then whether an alternative solution might be to postpone the entire Greek event – election included – until the (Northern Hemisphere) summer of 2022.

No doubt this would require the permission of IOC members.

Given how malleable the body has proved to be in recent times, however, I cannot see this presenting much of a problem, even if said permission had to be granted via teleconference.

It could in any case be argued that our bizarre and scary new circumstances have made 2022 a more sensible juncture at which to pass judgement on Bach's leadership, enabling a full assessment of Lausanne's response to the daunting COVID-19 challenge to be made.

If postponement is the option chosen, I very much doubt that the IOC President will be alone.

Indeed, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has already pointed the way, postponing its Congress that was going to be held in May, and hence extending the 22-year reign of Gian-Franco Kasper, its indomitable 76-year-old President.

The FIS now says the objective is to organise the event in the autumn, though the new date and location "is not yet defined".

It seems inevitable too that the ballot to elect new members of the IOC's Athletes' Commission will be postponed by a year, just like the Olympics.

World Taekwondo has announced, meanwhile, that next year's World Championships in China have been pushed back from May until the final quarter.

The body confirms this means that elections for the President and for Council members, to be held at its General Assembly during the Championships, have also been postponed.

Next up, I fancy, may be the International Luge Federation (FIL), whose President of 26 years, Josef Fendt, has said he would stand down in June.

Gian-Franco Kasper's reign will go on after the International Ski Federation elections were delayed ©Getty Images
Gian-Franco Kasper's reign will go on after the International Ski Federation elections were delayed ©Getty Images

Under present circumstances, it is hard to see how the planned Congress in Berchtesgaden, at which Fendt said he would make his office available, can take place.

A FIL official tells me the organisation is "prepared for every possibility – but, right now, there is no final decision made".

For Summer Olympic International Sports Federations (IFs), the year or so immediately following the Summer Games is a natural time to stage elections, at the outset of a new four-year cycle.

Tokyo 2020's postponement by a year now means these planned ballots risk falling just when preparations for the Games are at their most intense.

I would be less than surprised, therefore, to see some of them pushed back, especially those timed to coincide with a sports event that now sits uncomfortably close to the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games window.

The International Swimming Federation is/was scheduled to have elections at a General Congress in Fukuoka in July 2021 coinciding with the World Swimming Championships.

With the Championships now set to be postponed, will the Congress be put back too, giving the body's sprightly 84-year-old President Uruguayan Julio Maglione extra months at the helm?

It is an interesting question; though one would hope that by then COVID-19 will have relaxed its grip sufficiently for an on-time Congress, whether or not in Fukuoka, to be at least a feasible option.

Summer Olympic IFs expected to hold Presidential elections in the latter part of this year, in what would normally have been the immediate aftermath of Tokyo 2020, include the International Triathlon Union, the International Modern Pentathlon Union, the International Gymnastics Federation, the International Fencing Federation, the International Hockey Federation, World Sailing and the International Canoe Federation (ICF).

Could Julio Maglione be given extra time at the helm of FINA? ©Getty Images
Could Julio Maglione be given extra time at the helm of FINA? ©Getty Images

José Perurena, the ICF President, who was recently hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19, revealed about a year ago that he would step down at the end of his current term.

I would not be surprised if some of these IFs now took steps to put ballots back to the last quarter of 2021.

Another winter sports body, the International Ice Hockey Federation, is scheduled to elect a new President in September in Saint Petersburg.

René Fasel, the body's long-serving President, has served notice of his intention to step down after 26 years.

But will travel to the Russian city be possible in five months' time? And if not, what then?

International sport is a morass of questions at the moment.

Expect some of these to start being answered in coming days and weeks.