In what has erupted into all-out war between the highest powers in international sport, SportAccord – the umbrella organization that helps govern international sport federations – is beginning to accumulate significant losses that could later cause fundamental shifts in the politics of sport.
At the organization’s annual assembly and conference Monday being held this year in Sochi, SportAccord Chief Marius Vizer leveled an attack on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and President Thomas Bach for failing to implement necessary reforms and keeping the benefit of sport away from the athletes, dooming the Olympics to eventual destruction.
During his opening remarks at the meeting he said “the IOC system is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent. The Olympic Games belong to all of us and we need real reforms.”
“History demonstrated that all the empires who reached the highest peaks of development never reformed on time and they all headed for destruction,”
Bach quickly responded to the gathered delegates by suggesting that Vizer’s opinions were his own “exclusively”.
Bach’s allies swiftly rallied by his side – the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Sport Federations themselves who said that they firmly disagree with Vizer’s opinions.
Later Bach told Website insidethegames “I think everyone was surprised [about his opening speech], even his own Executive Board did not have an idea and I think this speaks for itself.”
“We have – and always will have an excellent relationship with the different International Federations.”
Almost immediately the International Athletics Association (IAAF), the International Shooting Federation (ISSF) and World Archery resigned from SportAccord over their misalignment with Vizer’s comments. Later, a letter co-signed by 12 sport federations was written to distance themselves from SportAccord over the remarks.
The letter read “we the undersigned Members of the SportAccord Association are expressing to the SportAccord leadership our disagreement on the opinions expressed this morning by the SportAccord President during the opening speech which do not reflect the views of the International Federations.”
“We also express our strong support to the International Olympic Committee and to the Olympic Agenda 2020 which has been adopted under the leadership of the IOC President Thomas Bach in consultation and agreement with all the International Federations.”
ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah released a statement clarifying his organization’s stance on Bach, the IOC and Agenda 2020.
“On behalf of the 205 NOCs around the world, ANOC would like to stress its full commitment to Olympic Agenda 2020 and its implementation. Olympic Agenda 2020 was conceived after a year of consultation with every stakeholder in the Olympic Movement and the values of democracy, transparency and integrity were reflected in the 40 recommendations that were presented,” the statement read in part.
“As President of ANOC and Vice-President of an International Federation I know that the voices of both the NOCs and the International Federations were heard by IOC President Bach and the IOC. Under President Bach’s leadership we look forward to moving towards a more united and brighter future.”
Vizer’s attack sets an uncomfortable tone for the remainder of the convention that just opened Monday evening at Sochi’s Iceberg Arena with an elaborate skating show. The impacted associations will be holding meetings throughout the week – including the member organizations that resigned Monday.
With a now documented lack of confidence in Vizer’s leadership, his tenure as President could come under fire.
Meanwhile, Vizer also announced that the SportAccord Convention will remain in Russia for at least another three years. The 2016 edition is set to return to Sochi but the meeting will travel to Moscow in 2017 and return to St. Petersburg, the 2013 host, in 2018.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.