December 9, 2013
IOC meeting wasted time
While the media is full of news about the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Annual General Meeting in Buenos Aires at the moment, it may be a very important AGM for the Olympics, but it will still have wasted a lot of time for a lot of people ... and yet I hear there are around 2,500 media representatives from all over the world who cannot enter the Hilton Hotel's (where the meetings are held) so some may also be wasting time.
Meanwhile, Gerardo Werthein, president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, even said that with all these IOC delegates, delegations from candidate cities and media representatives, the event will put Buenos Aires on the global map. But Buenos Aires has already been on the map for years and known for other reasons — good and bad — since then, rather than for this shindig.
Buenos Aires will be on that global map, so to speak, when they stage an Olympic Games here for which they have already bid unsuccessfully four times — in 1936, 1956, 1968 and 2004 — and they will, no doubt, bid again. Although, God knows how they would afford it if the present political policy continues. Buenos Aires will, however, be on the map in 2018, when they stage the Youth Olympics. Mayor Mauricio Macri says he has the full backing of the government — which government? — and gives costs (partly paid by 1% of the city's budget) which by that time may be irrelevant. But Macri may not even be mayor by 2018.
But back to 2013. IOC meeting delegates went through Rio de Janeiro on the way here to look at preparations for the 2016 Games there and said they were satisfied, but more needs to be done. Perhaps they were fooled, as foreign delegates led around by home officials often are, but more about Rio shortly. A lot can be done in over two years, but the Rio mayor said recently that the city will be in no condition to hold the Games.
At the IOC meeting starting today, a new president will be chosen to replace Jacques Rogge who has completed his term. May the newcomer follow Rogge's idea —never really carried out — to have the world's most popular sports in the Olympic Games if they cannot all be in. Every sport wants to be in the Olympic Games, except perhaps golf which will be in Rio, but does not seem too keen.
Also, the venue for the 2020 Games will be chosen between three candidates — Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul. Argentina seems to favour Madrid more out of questionable diplomacy, but basically it should not interest this country. This is always a risky decision as one cannot tell what will happen in six years’ time. IOC delegates have visited all three candidates and made their own valuation. This resulted in a major scandal before Rogge's presidency as delegates received expensive presents from each candidate to vote for them, but now, apparently, this is no longer the case.
Some three months ago, it was already known that Tokyo had received the highest points. So why are big delegations coming from the three candidate cities to press their point? All three cities have advantages and disadvantages and each will, of course, concentrate on the former. This seems to be a gigantic waste of time and money. We have already heard soccer star Lionel Messi urging Spain to be elected. Everyone must have realized it was for diplomatic reasons, because he plays there and the reasons he gave were pointless. Unless Tokyo makes a mess of its presentation, as Argentina did before the 2004 Games, it seems to be a foregone conclusion.
Madrid and Istanbul may say it would give joy to their suffering population, but the IOC is supposed to look for the best location and not choose based on humanitarian reasons. Look at Rio and its recent disturbances. Madrid has serious financial problems, Istanbul has riots.
Most important for many will be the vote to replace (or not replace) wrestling in the Games. It was excluded after last year's programme and is now favoured to be voted in again. Wrestling is one of the original Olympic sports and as such should, perhaps, never have been excluded. If it is now brought back, the IOC will have made a gigantic mistake which has cost a lot of people money and time. A better exclusion would have been cycling because it is the most drug-tainted.
The sports which requested to be considered were baseball/softball (as one), sports climbing (up a wall), karate, squash, roller-skating sports, wakeboarding and wushu, apart from wrestling. People from all these sports have spent money and effort to get their sport accepted — especially the four candidates finally chosen (wresting, baseball/softball, squash), from which one will be voted in. Instead, the IOC could have given wrestling a shorter period to fix its problems.
Wrestling changed its committee and modernized the sport, changing some rules and simplifying scoring, which were some of the points that the IOC did not like.
After baseball and softball were left out of the Olympics after 2004, the two sports joined up to make one stronger federation to try again. As for popularity it should certainly get in, but the Olympic Games want the participation of the world's best players while the professional leagues of the best countries (US and Japan) will not suspend play during the Games period, so their players have not been representing their countries so far.
Squash is popular in all five continents, but does not have the drawing power of other racket sports (tennis, badminton, table-tennis) already in the Olympics. It also made modifications to reach Olympic standards, but that will not be enough.
Of the other candidates left out of the final list of four, roller-skating sports should have had the best chance, due to its drawing power (including team games) and popularity, but the bid by climbing (walls), wakeboarding and wushu (also known as kung fu) seemed out of place.
However, one of the six candidates for the presidency, Dennis Oswald (chief of the International Rowing Federation) suggested not to limit the Games to 28 sports (as now), but if necessary reduce the number of persons taking part in some sports.