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President Bach: 'No organization is immune to corruption, not even the IOC'

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks to media after the first day of Executive Board meetings in Lima, Peru (Photo: IOC)
by Sonja Nikcevic, AIPS Media

LIMA, September 11, 2017 – It took 40 minutes of IOC President Thomas Bach’s press conference for a question to be asked about Paris, Los Angeles and the historic double allocation of the 2024/2028 Olympic Games.

The non-vote that the IOC Session in Lima is centered around provided only a meager afterthought of doubt on whether awarding an Olympic Games 11 years ahead of time brought any concerns to the IOC.

Thomas Bach replied, in recognizable good form, that it would have been a mistake for the IOC “not to seize the golden opportunity” of awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles respectively.

“Eleven years has an advantage in these times, which cannot be considered stable times, that the IOC will enjoy great stability,” Bach said.

Stability and lack thereof

The rest of the press conference following the first day of the Executive Board meetings did not however point to such stable times within the International Olympic Committee.

Earlier that morning, the Board had released a statement for the first time openly confirming the potential involvement of Lamine Diack in vote-rigging scheme for the awarding of the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro. Just last week Brazilian Federation President Carlos Nuzman was detained by local police on grounds that he had been involved with Diack in buying votes for Rio.

It was earlier confirmed that Kuwait’s once highly influential IOC member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah would not be attending the Session in Lima, amidst fears he would be detained as a part of an ongoing investigation in the USA on his involvement in corruption within FIFA. Officially and conveniently, he was unable to attend due to preparations for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat. Patrick Hickey, detained during Rio 2016 as a part of a separate Brazilian investigation into ticket rigging during the Games, had sent in his resignation from the EB just days before.

Questions regarding the credibility of the IOC were all round.

Damaging image

“Nobody wants to have credibility issues in his or her organization, but we have to face the reality that no organization is immune [to corruption and fraud], but we think we have done what we can do,” Bach said, responding to queries on Diack, Nuzman and the image of the IOC which no longer seems to have the moral high ground it had taken during the corruption scandals and allegations that rocked world footballing body FIFA in 2015, for example. At the time, the IOC president had called for greater checks in all international associations, FIFA in particular, in turn distancing himself and his organization from any comparisons with FIFA's corruption and vote buying allegations.

He has since found the IOC back in the votes-for-bribes narrative that had rocked the Olympic world after the awarding of the 2002 Salt Lake City winter Olympics.

Bach however, insisted that those times were long past.

Pointing to the IOC’s stricter reforms in city allocation following Agenda 2020, the work of the internal ethics committee and the building of a ‘roust governance compliance system’ as the central point of credibility, Bach continued: “These are not just words and a commitment to change, but action, as is visible on the IOC’s swift action in the case of Lamine Diack being stripped of honorary membership as soon as evidence of his involvement [in corruption] was provided.

“We have done what we could as an organization,” Bach said. “Our governance system works in both prevention and implementation, and the IOC, our Athletes Commission and Ethics Committee are waiting on evidence from Brazilian judicial authorities regarding Carlos Nuzman, in order to act,” the IOC president insisted, adding that he himself had not been in touch of one of the key figures of last year’s Olympic Games

“Having undertaken these reforms does not mean that we ignore the past, he added, “this will be addressed with these new instruments, and as we said, once evidence is provided.”

It seemed however that Bach was using Diack as a scapegoat for a deeper issue within the IOC that is hardly likely to involve just one “black sheep” individual, and one that will not be solved by dodging questions on obvious reputational damage to the IOC once again.

North Korean threat

Bach was also asked to comment on the mounting tensions in North Korea and impending geopolitical concerns in the region ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games. North Korea’s increased involvement in missile testing has brought edged responses from governments of not just neighboring South Korea but also Japan and China – the host countries of the following two editions of the Summer and Winter Games.

“There is no doubt being raised about the Winter Games 2018,” Bach said, confirming the IOC had been in touch with the governments involved. “[The IOC] appeals for diplomatic solution, we appeal for peace.

“Right now, the UN member states are discussing a draft of an Olympic truce resolution for PyeongChang 2018 and we hope that these discussions will be approved in UN General Assembly in November,” the IOC President said, added that the door would be open for the participation of North Korean athletes in the Games next Feburuary, a sentiment that had been repeated earlier in the day by Chairman of PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee Lee Hee Beom.

“We are hoping that North Korean athletes will be given the necessary support to take part [in the Games], and we hope peace will prevail on the Korean peninsula.

“So far there is not even a hint that there is a treat for the security of the Games in this context of tensions with North Korea,’” the IOC president said.

Follow Sonja Nikcevic on Twitter @sonjanik13

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