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SBJ/August 13 - 19, 2001/Olympics
Full text of letter from Dick Pound to sponsors of Olympic Games
Published August 13, 2001
July 24, 2001
I thought I should write to you following the IOC elections that were held last week.
As you know, I presented myself as a candidate to become president. My platform was based on continuing reform of the IOC, a reform that I promised you during the Salt Lake City scandal as an inducement to maintaining your support as a sponsor of the Olympic Movement. I assured you that the reforms were in place and that the final step of the process would be the retirement of Juan Antonio Samaranch in July, 2001. I had hoped to make final delivery on that promise were I to become president of the IOC.
Elections, as we all know, are unpredictable. Although I was not successful, the outcome of any competition is never a foregone conclusion and I accept the decision of the IOC that I was not the president that its members wanted at this time.
My concern is that the optics of the IOC elections are such that it may appear that the IOC is not as committed to the reform process as I hoped and represented it to be. There are some observations that are troubling and that need to be considered.
1. There is no doubt that the new president was the personal choice of Samaranch, who was at the centre of the storm of controversy that dictated the 1999 IOC reforms, and that Samaranch worked hard to ensure that the election confirmed his choice. [I should make it clear that I have no personal objection whatsoever to the new president. I have no reason to believe that he is unworthy of the position.]
2. The person who finished second in the presidential race was one of two IOC members who received the most severe warnings over improper conduct in the Salt Lake City scandals and whose election tactics were criticized for similar reasons.
3. The person who received the other most serious warning in the Salt Lake City scandals ran, unopposed, for the position of vice president of the IOC.
4. The person most identified with solving the Salt Lake City matters, calling for the resulting reforms, raising the money for the Olympic Movement and leading the fight against doping in sport fared the worst of all of the foregoing.
It may not be fair to conclude too much from this, but the message is, at least statistically, all too apparent. It will be essential for the new president to demonstrate by his actions that, even though he was elected by the old "system," he is fully committed to ongoing reform.
Also troubling, at least to me, and probably to you as well, was that both the first and second-place candidates in the presidential election campaigned on the basis that the Games are now over-commercialized. Part of this may just have been campaign strategy directed at my involvement in this field, but the theme appeared to resonate with some 75-80% of the members, who supported the other candidates. Those of us who have worked so hard for so many years to establish a partnership between sponsors and the Olympic Movement should be concerned with this attitude, since the so-called commercialization at the Olympic Games is both less than for any other international sports event and is more supportive of the ideals of the Olympic Movement than the publicity surrounding any other event. Not only that, without the support of our partners, it would not be possible to stage the Games at the level needed for the best performances of the athletes. The electoral outcome demonstrated almost complete disregard, even contempt, for the providers of the resources that make the Olympic Movement viable and free from the political influence and control of governments.
You will understand that, given the circumstances of the election outcome, I had no alternative but to submit my resignation, effective forthwith, as the person responsible for all marketing and television matters. This was not just a matter of simple courtesy to an incoming president, to allow him to put together a team of his own and not be saddled with the remains of a team established by a former president, but also a matter of principle, since the underlying philosophy that you and I have established together over the years does not appear to be shared within the IOC. I could no longer deal with you on the basis that we are pursuing a common objective, to which we, and our respective organizations, are both committed. Our personal relationship has been one of mutual trust, integrity and honesty and I am not willing to betray the confidence you have bestowed upon me.
I have grave concerns over the long term future of the Olympic Movement if the campaign rhetoric is, in fact, reflective of a negative attitude with respect to the good work we have accomplished together. I believe it will be important for you to insist upon an early, clear and unequivocal commitment from the new president as to the position the IOC will adopt under his leadership. He must also designate a person responsible for these matters in whom you can have the level of trust and confidence that I believe we have enjoyed in the past.
Thank you for the support you have always shown to me and for your commitment to a cause that I believe has enormous potential to serve the world community.