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  • ATR First -- IOC Warns Italy Over Government Interference


    08/06/19

    Joy for Milan 2026 could turn into conflict with the IOC. (ATR)
    (ATR) The IOC warns that legislation in the Italian Parliament could put at risk the status of the Italian National Olympic Committee.

    The Italian Senate this week voted in favor of a bill that would give the government the power to intervene in the governance and operation of CONI.

    A letter to CONI President Giovanni Malagò from IOC Olympic Solidarity director James Macleod seen by Around the Rings raises red flags.

    Giancarlo Giorgetti about to sign the host city contract for Milan 2026. (ATR)
    “As is customary in these circumstances, we have carefully examined these provisions and we wish express serious concerns on the part of the IOC regarding some of them which, if approved, would clearly affect CONI's autonomy,” Macleod writes.

    He raises six objections with the legislation, warning that the consequences could mean withdrawal of IOC recognition of CONI.

    The developments in Italy are being followed closely by the IOC, given that Milan was named in June as the host for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. IOC President Thomas Bach is reported to have voiced his concerns about the legislation with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte prior to the IOC vote for Milan.

    Reports in Italy say that Senate President Massimiliano Romeo is rejecting written pleas from sports leaders to modify the legislation.

    One source says that that the author of the legislation, undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti, has refused to take phone calls from Bach to discuss the impasse.

    The IOC level of concern is such that it has offered to meet this week with Italian legislators to find a way to avoid conflict with the Olympic Charter. The letter from the IOC acknowledges that NOCs and governments have a need to work closely. But it says the principles of the charter must be followed to produce “positive collaboration”.

    “However, such cooperation must be established with absolute and mutual respect of the autonomy of the National Olympic Committee and of the National Sports Federations, and without any external interference in the governance and activities of these organizations,” writes Maccleod.

    “We would be grateful if you, in your role as President of CONI but also in your role as IOC Member represent the IOC Italy, could bring these serious concerns to the urgent attention of the highest Government authorities.

    Gianni Malago, IOC member, CONI President, with IOC President Thomas Bach. (ATR)
    “We count on understanding and on the positive cooperation of interested parties to resolve amicably these issues and avoid any unnecessary complications and / or further action by the IOC,” says the letter.

    The IOC has suspended NOCs on occasion when impasses have arisen with governments. In June the IOC restored relations with the Kuwait NOC after years of deadlock over changes to Kuwaiti law. In this time Kuwaiti athletes competed at the Olympics and other sports events under a neutral flag.

    Such a fate could await Italy at the 2020 Olympics if the bill becomes law without changes acceptable to the IOC.

    The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee may have its own confrontation over the autonomy issue soon. New legislation in the U.S. Congress proposes to allow the government to disband the USOPC and Olympic sport governing bodies in the U.S.

    The Italian NOC is already facing challenges as a result of government actions in the past year that included stripping 400 million Euros in funding. That money was distributed by CONI to the national governing bodies for sport, a responsibility now handled by the a new ministry for health and sport.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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