March 5 - The increasingly fragile position of Mario Vázquez Raña faces arguably its most serious threat yet with the position of the previously untouchable Mexican as head of the Pan-American Sports Organization (PASO) set to top the agenda at its General Assembly in Mexico City this week.
He could face what would be effectively a vote of "no confidence" and could see him toppled from the top of an organisation that he has led with an iron grip since 1975, which would certainly be a momentous and memorable way to commemorate the 50th staging of the region's most important meeting.
The key could be the Caribbean members of PASO, who have been particularly vocal about Vázquez Raña's leadership, which they have long expressed reservations about.
They were due to hold a meeting today in Miami on their way to the Assembly, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday (March 7), to discuss what position they should take.
As they make up a third of the 42 members of PASO they potentially wield enormous power.
Vázquez Raña, who is also President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), has come under increasing pressure over the last few months as his powerbase has crumbled beneath his feet.
As insidethegames reported exclusively last month, he suffered the humiliation of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge scrapping the vice-chair position of Olympic Solidarity, which the Mexican had only just appointed Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg too.
Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has already been lined up to replace the embattled Vázquez Raña as ANOC President in 2014 with Ireland's Patrick Hickey set to take his seat on the IOC Executive Board due to the fact that the Mexican billionaire turns 80 this year and must therefore step down from the IOC.
But although Vázquez Raña had been expected to easily claim his latest four-year term as PASO President, his original base of power given that he has been in the role for 37 years, he finds himself in the position he is largely due to the fact that the members of the organisation have become disillusioned with his increasingly erratic behaviour.
There is particular anger about an incident last year in Guadalajara on the eve of the 2011 Pan American Games where Vázquez Raña publicly humiliated Christophe De Kepper, the director general of the IOC.
It followed the failure of the Rogge to attend the final day of the PASO Assembly after the IOC President had changed his travel plans because Vázquez Raña had originally cancelled it before changing his mind.
There is also dissatisfaction at the way Vázquez Raña has promoted his personal assistant Jimena Saldaña (pictured below right with Lindberg on left) to the position of general secretary of PASO, despite her lack of experience in the Olympic Movement.
Vázquez Raña is the only candidate for PASO Presidency in the elections and a vote of no confidence could trigger a major constitutional crisis within the organisation.
The PASO Statute says: "The successful candidate [for Presidency] must receive at least 50 per cent plus one of the votes cast by the Members of PASO."
Therefore if Vázquez Raña receives less than 51 per cent of the vote - which is a real possibility - PASO will be left without a President because there is no other declared candidate for the position.
It would be a particularly embarrassing situation for the Mexican on his home turf.
The meeting in Mexico City is scheduled for two days but given the predicament of PASO potentially not having a President by the end of it, it could run for a third day to discuss what happens.
The move would prove a hammer blow to Vázquez Raña, who has been one of the most powerful men in sport for several decades.
Although he is aware that he will soon have to start relinquishing the array of responsibilities he holds in the Olympic Movement due to his age, he had been hugely confident of securing another four-year term as PASO President.
Losing that role, which is his arguably his most cherished, also means that his position as head of Olympic Solidarity, the IOC programme that distributes nearly $400 million (£230 million/€310 million) to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world, would come under major threat when he steps down as an IOC member at the end of the year.
Rogge told insidethegames in January that the Mexican could possibly stay on as head of Olympic Solidarity after stepping down as an IOC member but following a backlash from ANOC and now PASO, Vázquez Raña's situation looks more tenuous than ever.
Ironically the Mexican Olympic Committee (COM) are holding a special tribute for Vázquez Raña during meeting where a plaque with his name will be unveiled on Thursday (March 8) to honour his contribution to sport in Mexico.
It may prove his only highlight of the meeting.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2012: Exclusive - Vázquez Raña suffers another setback as Rogge scraps vice-chair position of Olympic Solidarity
February 2012: Rows mar ANOC meeting as Raña succession discussed
January 2012: Exclusive - Vázquez Raña may stay beyond 2012 as Olympic Solidarity head, says Rogge
November 2011: Exclusive - National Olympic Committees unhappy over Raña leadership