SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Olympics

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  • Rings leaders: IOC’s presidential candidates

    Thomas Bach

    Nation: Germany

    Age: 59

    IOC member since: 1991

    Sports career: Gold medalist in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Games; president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation

    Why he might win: The clear front-runner, Bach is from Europe, where many IOC members are based; he has served on the IOC executive board since 1996 and led negotiations for European TV rights; and he’s an Olympian, which holds a great deal of importance to IOC members.

    Why he might lose: The European vote could be split among Bach, Sergey Bubka and Denis Oswald, allowing Richard Carrión to pull together enough votes from the Americas or Ser Miang Ng or Ching-Kuo Wu to pull enough votes from Asia to win.

    Sergey Bubka

    Nation: Ukraine

    Age: 49

    IOC member since: 2008

    Sports career: Four-time Olympic pole vaulter who won gold at the 1988 Seoul Games; president of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine

    Why he might win: Bubka has taken a firm, anti-doping stand at a time when doping has emerged once again as an issue in track and field. His position on that, combined with his international reputation as an Olympic champion and IOC members’ known preference for a president who has competed in an Olympics, could vault Bubka into first.

    Why he might lose: Bubka is relatively inexperienced by IOC standards. He has not served on any of the business-related committees and has served only on the evaluation commission for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the coordination commission for the 2016 Rio Games.

    Richard Carrión

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    Commonwealth: Puerto Rico

    Age: 60

    IOC member since: 1990

    Sports career: Executive committee member of the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico; Central board of FIBA (international basketball federation)

    Why he might win: Carrión is the only candidate from the Americas, and he’s earned a tremendous amount of respect within the IOC for his business acumen and success in negotiating the organization’s most important TV rights deal, an eight-year, $4.38 billion deal with NBC that extends through 2020. The CEO of Banco Popular was a member of the IOC executive board from 2004 to 2012.

    v Why he might lose: Carrión never competed in an Olympics, and the IOC is looking to improve its ties to athletes following criticism at the London Games that it doesn’t do enough to support competitors financially.

    Ser Miang Ng

    Nation: Singapore

    Age: 64

    IOC member since: 1998

    Sports career: Vice president of the Singapore Olympic Committee; chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Olympic Council of Asia

    Why he might win: The diplomat and businessman has strong ties to Asian IOC members and is viewed as the region’s strongest contender. He helped organize the inaugural Youth Olympic Games and advocates putting youth at the forefront of the IOC’s efforts.

    Why he might lose: The value of the Youth Olympic Games has been questioned by some IOC members, so supporting them could cost Ng some votes.

    Denis Oswald

    Nation: Switzerland

    Age: 66

    IOC member since: 1991

    Sports career: Three-time Olympic rower who won bronze at the 1968 Mexico City Games; president of the International Rowing Federation (FISA); former president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF)

    Why he might win: As the longtime president of ASOIF, he is as recognizable and well-known as any candidate. He has advocated improving the IOC’s process for selecting sports to participate in the Olympic Games, which is an issue that many members have complaints about.

    Why he might lose: Switzerland has five IOC members, which is something that bothers some members, and it will be difficult for him to pull enough European votes away from Bach to win.

    Ching-Kuo Wu

    Nation: Taiwan

    Age: 66

    IOC member since: 1988

    Sports career: President of the international amateur boxing association (AIBA)

    Why he might win: The boxing federation president has taken steps to improve boxing’s relevancy at the Olympics, pushing forward rules that would allow pro boxers to compete. Those rules come at a time that the IOC is looking for ways to rejuvenate its sports program and get youth more interested in the Olympics. Wu also has a reputation for battling corruption at the federation.

    Why he might lose: There are questions among IOC members about how China, an increasingly important contributor to the IOC’s TV rights revenue, would view a president from Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province that should be governed by the mainland.

    — Compiled by Tripp Mickle


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  • Stakes high in IOC race

    When Dick Pound ran for president of the International Olympic Committee in 2001, he rarely traveled. His campaign depended primarily on phone calls to members and brief meetings at IOC gatherings.

    Twelve years later, the campaign for IOC president looks far different. The six competitors — among whom a new president will be selected on Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina — have traveled to New York to visit the United Nations, several went to the Ivory Coast for the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, and they all were in Switzerland for an IOC gathering in July.

    Jacques Rogge is only the eighth president in the IOC’s nearly 120-year history.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    “The traveling and mixing of the candidates is much greater than it was in 2001,” said Pound, an IOC member from Canada since 1978. “I didn’t have money to spend traveling to Europe and Asia and Africa to pick up votes. It wasn’t there. Clearly, somebody is funding the process for some of the candidates. Some are wealthy enough to do it on their own. Some are not. It’s a different race.”

    The presidential race is only the third one the IOC has held in the last three decades. Juan Antonio Samaranch led the organization from 1980 until 2001, and Jacques Rogge beat out four competitors to replace Samaranch in 2001. Rogge is the eighth president in the organization’s nearly 120-year history.

    The candidates to replace him are Thomas Bach of Germany, Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, Richard Carrión of Puerto Rico, Ser Miang Ng of Singapore, Denis Oswald of Switzerland and Ching-Kuo Wu of Taiwan (see box).

    As stable as the IOC has become under Rogge, the new leader will be taking over at a critical point. The next three Olympic hosts — Russia, Brazil and South Korea — all have questions and concerns surrounding them, and in terms of the U.S. Olympic movement, the new president likely will be at the helm if the United States puts forward a bid for the 2024 Games.

    The campaign for IOC president is a private and controlled process. IOC rules encourage candidates to use “moderation” in promoting their candidacy. Candidates are allowed to share their vision for the IOC with members in a written document, which many call a platform, but they aren’t allowed to share that document with the press or seek to publicize their vision through the media or even through social networking. They can’t organize public meetings with IOC members, give gifts or make promises.

    So how do they campaign? Discreetly.

    They go to gatherings of IOC members like the event in Africa. They see members. They shake hands. They make themselves visible.

    Their only public opportunity to make their case came in early July when they all shared their visions with IOC members during a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is the first time in the IOC’s history that the organization offered candidates the opportunity to speak to the entire membership about what they would do if they were elected president.

    “We never had a chance to do that and that makes a big difference,” said Anita DeFrantz, a U.S. member of the IOC who ran for president against Pound and Rogge in 2001. “To present yourself and show how you would stand before your colleagues was an important change.”

    The IOC will hold a secret vote to name its new president during its annual meeting next month in Argentina. Whoever is selected will take over a far different organization than the one Rogge inherited in 2001.

    Since then, Rogge has led the organization as it moved into emerging markets like Russia and Brazil and bolstered its cash reserves, saving enough money to allow the organization to continue operations if an Olympics were to be canceled. He also launched the Youth Olympic Games, a competition for kids worldwide that was designed to boost youth interest in the Olympics and sports participation.

    But the challenges ahead are significant. There’s some question about whether the IOC’s business model will survive beyond 2022. The organization’s prestigious The Olympic Partner program is under pressure to change the pricing or structure and assets it includes because the sponsorship prices pale in comparison to what organizers of the Sochi and Rio Olympics charged to sponsor a single Games. And there’s some question within the organization about whether its traditional broadcast rights fees will be sustainable beyond 2022 as more and more programming migrates online.

    There’s also concern among members about the cost of the Youth Olympic Games, the rising costs of hosting an Olympics, international criticism of anti-gay legislation in Russia ahead of the Sochi Games, and local criticism of government spending in Brazil to host the Rio Games.

    And that doesn’t even touch on the issues of doping and betting on sports, which are critical to keeping competition at the Olympic Games fair and credible.

    “We have to protect our core, which is the opportunity for athletes to compete, because the business is built around that,” said DeFrantz, an IOC member since 1986. “The organization is healthier than when [Rogge] took over, but there are still enormous challenges out there.”

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