David Owen ©ITG

Six years ago - on November 18, 2014 - the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unveiled its "vision for the future of the Olympic Movement". 

It was a lengthy vision -100 pages - and its cover star was a rapt child gazing out at something beyond the spine of the document with the Olympic Rings emblazoned on one cheek. 

What, pray, was the name of this vision? Why, Olympic Agenda 2020. But of course. 

In less than a month's time that year - 2020 - an annus horribilis for so many reasons that have nothing to do with the Olympic Games - will finally be over. 

It seems an appropriate juncture at which to attempt an assessment of how the reform package, which includes the year in its oft-intoned title, has panned out. 

One possible way of making such an assessment might be to ask whether said "vision" anticipated the main Olympic-related events of the intervening six years.   

These would be the seemingly interminable Russian doping crisis, the decision to award hosting rights to two editions of the Summer Games - 2024 and 2028 - simultaneously and the terrifying spread of the pandemic that has forced the one-year postponement of Tokyo 2020. The answers, to my mind, are: 

1. No. Though recommendation 15 (of 40) - "change the philosophy to protecting clean athletes" - did envisage an amendment to the Olympic Charter to read: "The IOC's role is to protect clean athletes and the integrity of sport by leading the fight against doping, and by taking action against all forms of manipulation of competitions and related corruption". I will leave you to judge how well it has since done this. 

2. Not in as many words, although the first three recommendations did make it clear that- with the withdrawal of Oslo from the 2022 Winter Olympic race still fresh - substantial changes to Olympic bidding processes would be implemented. 

3. No. To be fair, not even I would expect the IOC to have a potent enough crystal ball to see that little lot winging its way down the road towards us.

Agenda 2020 was launched in November 2014, but has it been a success? ©IOC
Agenda 2020 was launched in November 2014, but has it been a success? ©IOC

But the virtual irrelevance of Olympic Agenda 2020 to what the outside world would regard as the big Olympic-related developments of our times ought to tell us something: Olympic Agenda 2020, taken at face value, has been well and truly overtaken by events. 

Even its most radical new measure - the launch of an Olympic Channel, as part of a drive to "keep Olympism alive 365 days a year" - may turn out ultimately to be too little, too late. 

After all, it has been thrown into an unforgiving and ever more fragmented media sector positively seething with paradigm-shifting change. 

The warning signs were there from the very start. I remember we were already beginning to assemble in Monte Carlo for the 127th IOC Session at which members dutifully voted through the entire Agenda 2020 package, when allegations of widespread doping among Russian athletes were aired in a bombshell 60 minute programme broadcast by Germany's ARD. 

To paraphrase that supposed old Chinese curse, the Olympic Movement has been living in interesting times throughout most of the six years since my Olympic Agenda 2020 backgrounder rolled off the presses. 

In such an era of fast-moving and relatively momentous events, there is almost inevitably a risk that the sort of new vision which Agenda 2020 purports to represent will be exposed almost at once as a needless distraction or not what the new circumstances require. 

With the benefit of the journalist's most important luxury - hindsight - the time for an Agenda 2020-esque reform package would have been the late noughties when, though the financial crisis had hit, Olympicland was still an island of serenity awash with cash.  

The 2009 Olympic Congress in Copenhagen might have presented an ideal opportunity. But of course Thomas Bach was not IOC President then, and it is tough for any organisation to focus on change when times are good. 

As we long-suffering trailers after the Olympic caravan know to our cost, Agenda 2020's questionable relevance to the major issues on the crowded Olympic news beat has not deterred the IOC leadership from shoehorning frequent references into its many speeches and press releases. 

Look, there it was again in late-October, in an item on the IOC website covering the first meeting of the Los Angeles 2028 Coordination Commission. 

Beneath the headline "LA28 building on Olympic Agenda 2020 to deliver innovative Games", is a quotation from Bach asserting that "from its inception, the LA28 project has embedded the very essence of Olympic Agenda 2020 in all its strategic plans".  

While Agenda 2020 has done little to protect the IOC from the headwinds that have buffeted it almost incessantly during the past five or six years, it did, I think, help Bach to stamp his authority on the organisation he has led since September 2013.     

The Olympic vision outlined by Agenda 2020 was overtaken by real-life events ©Getty Images
The Olympic vision outlined by Agenda 2020 was overtaken by real-life events ©Getty Images

It seems strange to recall today, given the near unfettered control the German one-time fencer has established, but in his early days in the hot seat, he appeared to adopt a rather circumspect approach on most issues. 

Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President from 1980 to 2001, had started his long reign in similar fashion prior to assuming complete control. 

Perhaps, in Bach's case, this was a consequence of getting elected with only just over half - 49 - of the 93 votes cast. 

As Richard Peterkin, then an IOC member from Saint Lucia, put it afterwards: "If you win with 49 votes, it probably means you need to continue to be inclusive." 

Bach himself told members after the vote in Buenos Aires that he wanted to be "a President for all of you". 

It should be emphasised that even early in his Presidency, Bach was quite prepared to act swiftly and more or less in secret when he felt this was warranted. 

The prime example is the landmark deal with Comcast that handed Olympic broadcasting rights in the United States to NBCUniversal until 2032 for a cool $7.65 billion (£5.6 billion/€6.3 billion). 

"We kept it among the three of us" - meaning he and two senior IOC officials - Bach acknowledged once agreement had been sealed. 

Agenda 2020, by contrast, was the product of a long process that was portrayed as phenomenally inclusive. 

The Monaco Session at which the reforms were approved was first flagged at an IOC Executive Board "brainstorming" in Montreux almost a year earlier. 

This was said to be the start of a "dialogue promised by the President during his campaign for election". 

As well as his own themes, "ideas and comments" were said to have been sought from the five other Presidential candidates, plus other IOC members and the "broader Olympic family".  

My Agenda 2020 backgrounder notes on the very first page that the IOC received 1,200 ideas generated by 270 contributions, and 43,500 emails from "various stakeholders from within the Olympic Movement", as well as "organisations and individuals from civil society". 

For all that, one came to feel that the leadership was pretty firmly in control of the main thrust of the eventual proposals. Since all 40 recommendations sailed through, as far as I remember, unchanged, Bach's leadership style has grown far more assertive, and in some cases ruthless, particularly when reacting to public displays of dissent. 

Olympic Agenda 2020 has been an ever-present feature of Thomas Bach's IOC Presidency but did not forecast the joint award of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and LA ©Getty Images
Olympic Agenda 2020 has been an ever-present feature of Thomas Bach's IOC Presidency but did not forecast the joint award of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and LA ©Getty Images

The Agenda 2020 process has also, I think, helped to adjust the mindset of what has traditionally been a deeply conservative organisation, instilling a somewhat greater preparedness to acknowledge a need for change and the fact that the world moves - backwards as well as forwards - ever more rapidly. What it has not done is provide mechanisms to ensure that meaningful, beneficial, fundamental change actually takes place. 

Two examples. The IOC has been clear since Sochi 2014 that the cost of putting on the Olympics needs to be better controlled, even if part of its drive in this regard boils down to a relabelling of non-sports infrastructure costs that might be incurred by the host city

This is because glaring and, yes, sometimes at best semi-informed headlines affixing huge costs to Olympic projects are perceived to put off future bidders - especially cities where a public vote on whether to proceed with a bid cannot be avoided. 

Some of the Agenda 2020 reforms - actively promoting the maximum use of existing facilities - allowing the organisation of entire sports or disciplines outside the host city or, exceptionally, the host country - were designed to address this. 

The trouble is, any Olympic project is a complex and multi-faceted partnership incorporating many stakeholders. 

No matter how detailed the host city contract, if it turns out that an important stakeholder's priorities are different from the IOC's, it is far from straightforward to make sure that the Lausanne view always prevails. Nor, frankly, is it axiomatic that it should do so.  

Now, in an eye-opening case of the law of unintended consequences, the French have, frankly, lampooned these more flexible rules on venue location by deciding to stage the Paris 2024 surfing events in Tahiti, just the 15,700 kilometres from the host city. 

Bach harrumphed about this for a while before deciding it was not a hill that was worth dying on. 

Secondly, Agenda 2020 has opened the door to regular review of the Olympic sports programme on an event-by-event basis. This could lead to quite a shake-up, making use of the enormously detailed data on viewer preferences and behaviour that digital media make it possible to provide. 

It could equally lead to a bun-fight with the International Federations. The IOC has considerable financial leverage over many of them, should it choose to use it. 

But this will require a certain amount of will as merely nodding through the relevant Agenda 2020 recommendation is not by itself enough to make anything of significance happen. 

COVID-19 has in any case taken a hand in proceedings. Tokyo 2020 will not now take place until after the Paris 2024 event programme has been finalised. It would therefore appear that Tokyo-related audience data can have no possible role in decisions that are taken. 

Olympic Agenda 2020 has allowed Paris 2024 to propose Tahiti as its destination for surfing  ©Getty Images
Olympic Agenda 2020 has allowed Paris 2024 to propose Tahiti as its destination for surfing ©Getty Images

Meanwhile, the number of events on the Summer Olympic programme continues to grow, from 306 at Rio 2016 to an expected 339 in Tokyo. 

To sum up then, it seems to me that Olympic Agenda 2020 will probably warrant no more than a footnote in Olympic history, simply on the basis that the Movement is in a more difficult and challenging place today than six years ago, when this "vision for the future" was waved through. 

These are strange and unsettling times, and it might be that come next year, looking back, Tokyo 2020 may appear as a shaft of light that blazed across our screens symbolising humanity's resilience, and that the darkest days were finally behind us. 

If it does, a) it will provide international sports bodies with their biggest boost in years; and b) it will be a consequence of luck, good faith and an astounding amount of ingenuity and hard work by a diverse community of highly-skilled, profoundly-dedicated individuals, including Bach. 

Olympic Agenda 2020 will have had precious little to do with it.