The ANOC General Assembly spent several hours moving to and fro in attempting to arrive at a precise interpretation of what the Olympic Charter says on the matter of athletes making pronouncements under the ambit of freedom of expression. In the end IOC President, Jacques Rogge, delivered what was apparently accepted as a layman’s interpretation while declaring his own lack of expertise in matters of law. His interpretation nonetheless seemed sufficiently accommodative to earn the applause of the ANOC affiliates in attendance.
Perhaps it is the IOC’s unwillingness to acknowledge its own political role in the realm of international sport that makes the current situation almost unintelligible to its leadership. The reign of Juan Antonio Samaranch as President of the IOC took the organisation into the realm of becoming almost a state power in the way it manages its affairs and impacts the international community well beyond the realm of sport. The pomp and pageantry that accompanied Samaranch and his entourage wherever they went and especially at the Olympic Games suggested that he had taken himself, the office and the IOC into the realm of world leadership. Of course this matter was addressed in the book, Lords of the Rings, a critical analysis of the leadership of five international sporting organisations headed by the IOC.
The authoritarian structure of the IOC did not leave room for its global affiliates to be involved in any discourse on this matter and that is still the case today.
The organisation remains headstrong and may well be seeing itself as a world power much more than a sporting organisation.
This may also well explain why we’ve had the embarrassing Salt Lake City scandal about bribery of some IOC officials relative to the Winter Olympics of 2002 that rocked the International Olympic Committee to its very core. Whatever about the recommendations of the Kissinger Commission and the decisions of the IOC following their submission the reality is that the Winter Olympics stayed with Salt Lake City, a reflection of the seeming inconsistency of the IOC which continues to pat itself on the back for surviving through the two World Wars and the many turbulent times, inclusive of the aforementioned scandal.
We cannot understand that the IOC could not have expected the furore now in existence given the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing. The IOC has shown little foresight and remarkable ineptitude in its approach to pre-empting the current crisis and in managing it now that it has taken centre stage.
The international sporting community and indeed the entire world watch the unfolding saga that is the Olympic Torch Relay. While many have started calling for the event to be curtailed since it remains a critical international platform with tremendous media coverage for the protestors, the Chinese officials have stated categorically their insistence that nothing would stop it. The stance of the latter appears to be dictating the actions of the former, the IOC.
The International Olympic Movement is once more under threat. The IOC often addresses cases where the NOCs and the governments of their respective countries are at cross-purposes, it however, pays absolutely no attention to cases where the government runs the NOC.
The politics of international sport continues to be far more intriguing than national and international politics and this only because the international sports community continues to delude itself into believing that it is non-political.
The sooner the IOC and its many affiliates come to the realisation of the deep-seated nature of their own politics the better they would be able to ‘call a spade a spade’ and confront issues as they really should.