David Owen_newFond as I am of the Olympic Movement, I have a soft spot for episodes that prick its pomposity.

So last week's hoo-hah over the latest election for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission could hardly fail to catch my eye.

To recap, the final days of perhaps the greatest Summer Games of the modern era were overshadowed, at least for those of us who follow Olympic politics, by allegations relating to supposed breaches of the strict rules governing campaigning before the vote.

The most colourful of these allegations involved lollipops and a human kangaroo.

The primary purpose of this blog is not, however, to rehash details we have already reported, but to think a little about the characteristics of what, for the world of sport, is a pretty important electoral process.

The vast majority of those who sit on the Athletes' Commission, after all, are also IOC members.

Human kangaroo_IOC_August_16James Tomkins, the candidate from Australia, walks besides a human kangaroo with Chinese Taipei's Mu-Yen Chu in the background 

This means, most obviously, that they help decide where future Olympic Games are to be staged.

For me, the most singular thing about these contests is that they are held over the one and only period in their lives when the electorate – the majority of them at any rate – are gathered in the same place.

But it is also a period when these voters are guaranteed to be utterly obsessed with something else: the small matter of winning an Olympic title.

This special electorate, as you will already know or have guessed, consists of every athlete who has secured the right to compete at a given Olympic Games.

At London 2012, there were 10,852 of them.

Given the prestige and power vested in the winners, the fields of candidates can be quite congested; at this latest election, there were 21 contenders for four positions.

It is only natural, in such circumstances, that candidates should wish to campaign.

But restrictions are very tight: other than a short video and a black and white A4 sheet, just about nothing else can be circulated.

As the rules of conduct state: "No other document, poster, sign, banner or gift may be distributed and/or displayed inside or outside the Olympic Village...

Koji Murofushi_August_16Disqualified for a breach of the IOC rules, Japan's Koji Murofushi won the London 2012 bronze medal at the men's hammer throw event

"No form of material [such as t-shirt, caps, pictures, etc] or financial inducement to vote for a candidate or take part in the vote is permitted."

I have no doubt that these rules were promulgated with the best of intentions, ie to create a level playing field and prevent well-funded candidates from enjoying a clear advantage.

But I wonder, in the wake of last week's developments which saw two of the original four successful candidates disqualified for alleged rule breaches that they deny having committed, whether such an approach is sensible or desirable.

In any case, I think following last week's brouhaha that changes may have to be made.

Think about it: last week's two disqualified candidates – Mu-Yen Chu of Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) and Koji Murofushi of Japan – were disqualified only after athletes had voted.

While I would never vouch for the infallible accuracy of my maths, the official election results suggest that these two candidates secured 4,427 votes between them.

This in a contest in which the athlete who officially topped the polls – Danka Bartekova of Slovakia – mustered 2,295 votes, with the runner-up – James Tomkins of Australia – scoring 1,802.

IOC Athletes_Commission_results_August_16_The Olympic Movement's website announces the results of the IOC Athletes' Commission election at London 2012 - but there is no mention that two candidates had been disqualified

Permitting athletes to be removed from the race after the vote seems to me particularly questionable, since you could imagine it theoretically giving rise to complaints being lodged by those with a particularly clear vested interest – ie supporters of a candidate who failed to be elected.

Just as important, unless you allow those affected to resubmit their voting papers, it means that anyone who voted for a disqualified candidate has been partially disenfranchised.

The existence of such strict campaigning restrictions, in an age when it is easy as pie to snap an image on a smartphone and email it to whomsoever one chooses, also seems to me all too likely to foster an unsavoury atmosphere around campaigns, with rivals and their supporters, in effect, incentivised to spy on one another in the hope that evidence collected might knock competitors out of the contest.

Of course, the IOC needs to be vigilant in preventing any trace of financial inducements from entering these campaigns.

But is it really necessary to adopt such a heavy-handed approach to campaign materials that are the lifeblood of most election campaigns?

Quite apart from anything else, I think the very circumstances of the election all but oblige sensible candidates to conduct themselves with discretion.

I mean, if you were busy preparing for your once-and-for-all tilt at Olympic glory, how would you react to a candidate who insisted on pestering you?

Speaking for myself, the last thing I would do is vote for them.

Rules or no rules, in other words, aggressive campaigning in these elections would probably be counterproductive.

Danka Bartekova_August_15Danka Bartekova of Slovakia received 2,295 votes and also picked up a bronze medal at the London 2012 women's skeet shooting event

If it were up to me, then, I would ease up.

If, however, the IOC insists that its present rules are necessary, then I don't really see what is to be gained from waiting until athletes arrive in the Olympic Village before asking them to cast their votes.

Presumably, the candidates' A4 sheets and videos could be distributed to the electorate on selection for their national Olympic team.

Submitting a valid electronic vote could then be added to the list of conditions Olympic athletes agree to on signing their Olympic contracts.

This would have the added benefit of pushing turnout figures to very high levels, as opposed to the 64 percent who voted in London.

One significant disadvantage of such a system would be that it would make it easier, I imagine, for National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to more or less instruct their athletes which candidates to vote for.

For this reason, I think the wisest reaction to last week's events would be considerably to ease up on the rules governing campaigning.

Yes, it might lead to some strange sightings around the Village, but I think it would help to ensure that the best candidates are elected – and shouldn't that be the name of this particular game?

David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 World Cup. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed here.