Pere Miro is IOC director of NOCs and Olympic Solidarity general manager. (ATR)
(ATR) IOC director of National Olympic Committee relations Pere Miro tells Around the Rings
that NOCs “don’t live on the moon” with regard to the financial crisis, Arab Spring and other world events.
Miro, also Olympic Solidarity general manager, provides updates on the NOCs of Kuwait, Panama, Nepal, Ghana, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and others in this wide-ranging interview conducted last month in Lausanne.
Around the Rings:
Let’s start with Olympic Solidarity. I saw that more money is available to NOCs preparing for London. Was that driven by economic concerns or an increase in grant funding, and what’s the final figure for that?
We work by quadrennial. We are in the period covering 2009-2012, and for this period we have $311 million helping NOCs. We don’t distribute money as cash only. It’s always for programs that we have mainly helping athletes, helping coaches or supporting the development of Olympic values and also NOC infrastructure. They need to have infrastructure.
What the commission analyzed [last month in Lausanne] was exactly as you said: what is the current situation of the NOCs facing the last year of the quadrennial? We realized that 2012 is a very extensive year for the NOCs. They have the Olympic Games in London, in which all of them must take part. And some of them have the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, some have other duties such as small regional games, and so on.
One thing you also have mentioned is that all the NOCs are impacted by this financial crisis because they don’t live on the moon. They live in an environment impacted by that. Because of this, the commission studied the possibility to increase the total budget at the disposal of the NOCs, and we increased this by a total of $20.4 million. This is money that will be available for the NOCs to improve the world.
What remains to be done with the NOCs of Panama and Kuwait?
Kuwaiti athletes competed under the IOC flag at the 2010 Asian Beach Games in Muscat, Oman. (ATR)
With Kuwait, it’s clear that is an NOC that is suspended by the IOC, and the point is that in Kuwait it was a local sports law that was considered by the Olympic Movement that interfered with the autonomy. In the Olympic Charter, one of the main points is that the NOCs and the sports organizations in the country should preserve their autonomy, and the state of the sports program was a clear violation of autonomy, and the suspension was decided by the IOC more than two years ago now, and what is seen is that there’s another sports program prepared to substitute the old one, but still this new law that we know is in agreement with the Olympic Charter still has not passed the parliament. We believe once this is done probably the IOC – it’s not my decision, it’s the IOC Executive Board’s decision – will have no problem.
For Panama, I have no particular comment because Panama is not suspended by the IOC. It’s a completely normal NOC. Panama is one of the, let’s say, 20 or so NOCs on average that always have the potential for conflict or problems. But the situation, as I have said for us, it’s normal. They are not suspended, so these athletes will take part in London for sure.
I know there are some problems with the NOC in Nepal. You wrote a letter a while back. Is everything resolved there?
It’s in the right way, meaning that we have constructive relations with the government of Nepal. Very constructive. The base of the problem is what we have in many other countries. The understanding of the government and what are the roles concerning the National Olympic Committees or concerning the national federations, and there was, let’s say, too much intervening in these affairs.
Normally, we are always positive, and we believe that in many cases it is because of a lack of knowledge regarding the Olympic Charter and the Olympic international rules and always our approach is demagogic. We always have a demagogic approach and try to explain the situation concerning the international laws regarding sport. And in the majority of cases, we get a good response and good solutions. Nepal is one of these cases. They were probably not very aware of the different rules of the Olympic Charter, and we wrote a letter and we have had very good feedback. For the moment for us, it is not one of the 20 nations that we should monitor. We should look at the situation, but we are in a very good track.
What’s next in Ghana with their NOC?
Nine athletes represented Ghana at the Beijing Olympics. Six of them were boxers. (Getty Images)
Ghana actually is the NOC that came back – the suspension has been lifted thanks to this process. It has been more or less the same. They were suspended based on what we felt was interference through a sports law. Once again, the same system, we establish a dialogue with the government with different means, and the government understood very well and they understood the local situation was something that we should respect, and that the international situation was something they should respect.
Finally, we got a consensus and they modified the law. And the new sports law in Ghana is absolutely in accordance with the Olympic Charter. After that, the IOC EB lifted the suspension, and now they got elections, as planned before the suspension, and the new elected [Ghana NOC] executive board is completely legitimate by the IOC and by the Olympic Charter rules, and that situation is completely normalized.
What impact has the Arab Spring had upon NOCs?
I said before the NOCs are not organizations living on the moon. They live here in this world and they live in a local context. Because of this, all the changes that we are having in the Arab world impact on the NOCs. You have mentioned that some presidents and some executives of the NOCs have been changed, they have disappeared, they have been impacted – this is the reality, and we can do nothing about that.
What we are trying to [monitor] with these revolutions is that NOCs should maintain their autonomy as the governments change. This has for sure impacted the NOCs because some people disappear because of the situation, but what is the Olympic Movement considering as each country is being renewed? We find that our renewal of the NOCs and the changes are completely in accordance with the Olympic Charter and our rules.
New minister of youth and sport Fathi Terbil took his place in Libya's evolving post-Khadafi government just 10 days prior to last month's Doha Arab Games. (ATR)
Libya is one case where things are going very well. Some of the old executive board members and many of the members of the general assembly are members of the federations, and still they remain. They have helped a lot with the new authorities to understand what is the situation in the Olympic Movement, and they have been at reach with the new authorities. Together with the authorities and with these gentlemen and ladies still existing, we have elaborated a roadmap that we are following in agreement with all of us.
The same is true in Tunisia, where the National Olympic Committee is completely, completely normalized, and we have a president, we have an executive board and everything has been doing well following the same concept of the roadmap that I mentioned before.
You spoke about Yemen. Yemen is probably a different case that is very complicated. As you know, the situation in the country is unstable, and because of this we are monitoring the situation through the NOC and we will follow the case as we do with the others.
How many total countries are you monitoring for potential interference or governance problems?
We recognize 204 NOCs with one suspended, Kuwait, meaning 203 active NOCs. Normally, in our list of potential cases and special monitoring, there are always between 20 and 30. It does change because some of the times they are green light, yellow, red – you know what these codes mean. And there are always entering and getting out, but we have between 20 and 30 that for one reason or another we should focus on more for a period of time.
What can the IOC do to strengthen the role of NOCs, help them instill good governance practices and further protect them from government interference?
My opinion is to provide the best information about what must be good governance and what must be an efficient management. If they have an efficient management being able to serve adequately to the athletes, to the coaches, to the structure, this is the best way to preserve themselves from other interests outside the NOC. If they are really efficient, no one really has the opportunity to say “I’m going to help you because you do not know how to help yourself.” And this is what is happens in some countries.
Let’s say some other forces in a country, I’m not saying only the government – sometimes it’s economic forces maybe – they use these weak NOCs because weak governance or weak management, they say “Look, you do not know how to work or how to help yourself. I’m coming, I’m going to solve your problems and because of this, I take over.”
This is the point. If you have a strong NOC knowing what to do afterwards, they are much more protected. This is what we are trying to do. And this point was one of the points discussed in the Olympic Congress in 2009, and it was one passage dedicated to good governance. Through that the IOC approved something called the “Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports Movement.” This is a document that has nine points and more than 50 sub-points, and this document is public and is known by everybody. During 2010, we developed around 10 seminars in the world with all the NOCs in small groups. The average would be 20 NOCs by group in different locations, and we explained to all of them what was discussed in Copenhagen. We spread the knowledge of this document, we discussed with them, because also the problem is each culture is different. You can name principles, explain them, clearly define them, but the understanding is different. When you speak about – I don’t know – transparency, for example, and you put that in some place in the world or in another, the understanding because of cultural norms is different, and because of this also we tried to get everybody to understand what the IOC was trying to promote.
Looking ahead, have you had any discussions with anyone in South Sudan about a National Olympic Committee?
The flag of South Sudan.
Yes, this is a very important point for us. This new state recognized by the UN since July for sure has been identified by us. We are in contact with the new authorities. And also – this is very important – the National Olympic Committee of Sudan is absolutely willing to help their brothers in the south in order to build the sports infrastructure. We are working with them for sure because we would like to help them building the national federations in the sports that will be more developed in this region and afterwards for sure, sooner or later when the conditions of the Olympic Charter are approved and will be met, the IOC may study the creation and the approval of one National Olympic Committee. It is something that may come sooner or later because the political conditions called for by the Olympic Charter are met. They are an independent state recognized by the United Nations. Because of this, yes, we are working with them.
Anything I’m forgetting to ask or anything else you’d like to add?
Only to say that for me this is really a privilege to work with 204 National Olympic Committees and to experience how so many different cultures sometimes so different may have a common understanding through sport. This is something unbelievable. You put a ball in between, and everybody understands and everybody follows. This is what is unique.
Interview conducted by Ed Hula III.
For general comments or questions, click here.
20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.