IOC: Good Governance and Anti-Corruption

Some may have the impression that the only important issue on the agenda of the IOC Congress was the decision regarding the 2016 summer Olympics. However, the IOC has in fact been holding a congress with speeches and debates covering a broad range of fundamental aspects: the Athlete, the Olympic Games, the Structure of the Olympic Movement, Olympism and Youth, and the Digital Revolution. I will not attempt to comment on all of these aspects; instead I will point you to the document summarizing the recommendations of the IOC Congress.

Some of the conclusions that came up under the heading ‘the Athlete’ will be useful for those athletes who need support and arguments in their struggle be heard by the authorities in their respective sports, as discussed in my posting from yesterday. I hope to come back to this topic in a near future.

My focus here will instead by on good governance and anti-corruption. The reputable organization ‘Play the Game’ had made a major effort to force the attention of the IOC on the need for strong action against corruption, through an open letter to the IOC at the Congress. This open letter, for which a vast number of signatures were obtained, was not necessarily welcomed by all IOC members. Several of them were interviewed about the idea of an independent anti-corruption agency (somewhat similar to WADA, the anti-doping agency) and while a few diplomatically referred to the existence of an IOC Ethics Committee and a Court of Arbitration for Sport, other interviewees (such as the IHF President) suggested more firmly that issues involving corruption could best be handled internally by the organization affected. (The FIFA President indicated that he would retire, if such an agency were to be established; it prompted some observers to suggest that this sounded like the best possible argument for moving ahead…).

However, a glimmer of hope could be seen in the keynote speech by the IOC VP Thomas Bach, under the heading of ‘the Structure of the Olympic Movement’. While (as I would put it) he ‘put the cart before the horse’ by first talking forcefully, albeit eloquently, about the need for the sports movement to enjoy a high degree of autonomy from governmental interference, he later came to the important point that, in order to deserve such autonomy, sports organizations need to demonstrate ‘responsibility’ in terms of compliance with rules of ethics and good governance. As key principles he mentioned, for example: define the vision and mission so that clear goals and strategies can be developed; clear, democratic and efficient structures, with checks and balances, and clear and transparent rules for democratic decision-making; transparent financial processes with clear rules for the distribution of revenues; and involvement of active athletes and protection of their rights. It seems that my earlier suggestions for the steps needed prior to IHF By-Law changes were receiving full endorsement…

Finally, it is also worth noting the conclusion that the IOC should immediately establish its own entity for monitoring the betting activities going on in connection with the Olympic Games. (Previously, the IOC has been ‘piggy-backing’ on an external agency, viz. the company used by FIFA, for the purpose of detecting suspicious activity). This should be seen as a strong indication that the IOC, like many other organizations, have come to realize the tremendous threat that illegal gambling constitutes to the desire for fair play and an untarnished image in sports.