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  • Hard Part Comes Next for Olympic Reforms -- Op Ed


    11/21/14

    (Getty Images)
    (ATR) Agreeing to change is one thing. Making it happen is another.

    The Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations spell out a new corporate culture for the International Olympic Committee that has the potential to drive the organization fully towards 21st century standards of best business practices.

    For the Games themselves, the recommendations provide direction on how the IOC can keep the Olympics relevant to new generations.

    The 40 recommendations are the product of the first year in office for IOC president Thomas Bach, who is firmly putting his stamp on how the organization is run. He has solicited viewpoints from throughout the Olympic Movement that now have been consolidated into the 40 proposals now being presented. So far, the process seems to have been tranquil and free of rancor – but then, it’s been easy to assemble a list of changes, given the variety of challenges the IOC and Olympics face today.

    How they are accepted by the membership remains to be seen. Given the prolific comments made by IOC members during their first debate about Olympic Agenda 2020 during the IOC session in Sochi, there is likely plenty to be said in Monaco, where the changes face a vote at an extraordinary IOC session.

    Still, assuming the list stays intact without major revisions, the IOC presumably has a roadmap to follow for the remainder of the Bach presidency and beyond. Following that roadmap is where things might get sticky.

    It’s up to the IOC executive board to decide how to proceed. The EB will choose which recommendations to adopt first and then figure out the details of implementation.

    Probably among the first will be the process of bidding for the Games. Cities considering bids for 2024 are waiting to hear what changes are in store before taking any further steps. With the deadline to file applications with the IOC in mid-2015, there would be little time to waste to prepare a whole new way of bidding.

    Paris is among cities weighing a 2024 Olympic bid. (Getty Images)
    This includes a so-called “invitation” stage where the IOC and potential bidders can meet to discuss how Olympics could work in a particular city. The opening of the previously secret host city contract is another major step called for in the recommendations. Included in this move towards transparency, the IOC is ready to specify in the contract the sizeable contribution it makes towards staging the Games.

    The IOC also could find itself in the business of regulating consultants to bid cities. One recommendation says bid cities could only hire consultants from the list approved by the IOC. Approved consultants would need to abide by the IOC code of ethics. Exactly how this approval process would take place is one of those devilish details that could be ahead for the executive board. Will the same approval of consultants be required when they go to work for international sports federations?

    Aside from 2024, the IOC is also dealing with the debacle of the 2022 Winter Olympic race, which now includes just two candidates after more than a half dozen cities bowed out.

    Even more immediately than with the looming 2024 campaign, the IOC EB must decide which if any changes will apply to the race between Beijing and Almaty for 2022. There is great interest as to how these two cities will respond to the new prohibition against discrimination based on sexual preference – – and how the EB will respond to any equivocation by the bid cities.

    Also intertwined with the 2024 bids are changes to the way the IOC wants to organize and manage the Olympic Games. Sustainability, the use of temporary venues, the ability to stage events outside the official host city all will play a part in how the next generation of Olympic bids are shaped.

    Tokyo 2020, chosen under the previous rules and requirements, is nonetheless taking to heart the idea that venues need to be sustainable, even if it means tossing out the venue plan that was part of their successful bid. The IOC has welcomed Tokyo’s venue review even if it means more work; the result is supposed to be venues that are practical and affordable.

    The door could soon swing open for softball and baseball to return to the Olympics. (Getty Images)
    Tokyo 2020 also could be the first Summer Games city to benefit from the option to select an event for its sports program that fits the host city. Baseball and softball – both popular in Japan – now seem destined for Tokyo if the EB is ready to act.

    One of the biggest changes for Olympic sport would come with the abandonment of the 28-sport limit for the summer program. Bach calls it an artificial number and would prefer to see a cap on the number of events at 310 and a limit of 10,500 athletes. As long as room can be found within those numbers, the Olympic program could become more dynamic, reflecting the preferences of the host city, such as will happen with Tokyo.

    Under one of the Olympic Agenda recommendations, federations would control the technical side of staging sports, taking that job away from the usually unskilled organizing committee.

    The IOC president has been particularly enthusiastic for the creation of an Olympic TV channel. Projects such as this don’t come to life simply by turning on the studio lights and cameras. If the channel is approved by the IOC session, years of development will still be needed to firmly establish this new property of the IOC. One of the recommendations for bidding reform calls for candidate cities to have access to the Olympic channel. What that means and when it would happen is another decision for the executive board.

    Changes to the way the Olympic trademarks are allowed to be used will be headed to the executive board for implementation. This would include a relaxation of rules governing noncommercial use of the Olympic rings and development of a global licensing program of products aimed not at revenue generation, but promotion of the Olympics. Both of these involve a change of philosophy that’s been entrenched for years.

    Kuala Lumpur will host the July IOC Session. (Getty Images)
    Recommendations for the Ethics Commission calls for the IOC Session to elect both the chair and members. This change could take place at the IOC session next July in Kuala Lumpur.

    Also in Kuala Lumpur could be the implementation of changes for how IOC members are chosen. The Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation calls for the Nominations Commission to actively recruit new IOC members to reflect diversity. While there is no change recommended for the retirement age of 70, the Olympic Agenda reform would allow no more than five members at a time to stay on an additional four years. Deciding when to put this into effect is another move the EB will have to make.

    Out of 40 recommendations, these are some of the complications that come with just a handful of the reforms. Look at them as twists and turns in the roadmap for the IOC from Olympic Agenda 2020. From here on, it’s up to Thomas Bach and his colleagues to keep to the course and avoid getting lost.

    Now the hard part begins.

    Written by Ed Hula

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