Last week, HE Juan Samaranch, once the President of the IOC passed away. This week Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA gave vent to a number of issues in an article by Mihir Bose in the Evening Standard. Between them they had led or lead the largest televised sporting competitions in the world.
Samaranch’s death produced the inevitable obituaries which said he saved the modern Olympic movement and included comments from around the world of people who hope one day to succeed him. Only John Rodda, once of The Guardian, came anywhere near the truth in his obit.
Samaranch did a number of inexplicable things.
He sacked the brilliant, sometimes imperious, Monique Berlioux, the Director of the IOC, and then the top woman in sport, under an item on the Agenda called Any Other Business. He didn’t fire the bullet but he persuaded one of his accolades to do so. She did not want the commercialisation of the Games; he did; she went.
Until Rio was selected for 2016, the Games were, under Samaranch, mostly, with the odd genuflection to Korea, Japan and China, organised by WOCs – white only countries - from a rather limited stock – Europe, Australia or America. There were never plans to take the Games to Africa, the Middle East, India or South America. There may have been five rings on the Olympic flag representing the five continents of the world but the flag was just for decoration.
Then, there were the sponsors. What are the Games for other than to make the IOC rich and to make every host city poorer? Of course all this boiled over in the Salt Lake City bid but it happened on Samaranch’s watch and he did nothing about it. The endemic corruption of the bidding city wasn’t the only thing that had a nasty smell to it. It is still not clear why (and who agreed it and who knew) the drug testing centre was dismantled in Los Angeles in 1984 before the Games ended. Rumours still abound that it was because there were allegedly US medal winning athletes who had been caught. I could go on.
Blatter takes the biscuit. Like the IOC, FIFA is headquartered in Switzerland and is therefore able to hide behind canton law and a distinct lack of transparent accounting. Anyone who challenges Blatter, as Andrew Jennings and David Yallop have done over the years, are banned or sued or both but never in an EU country or their courts.
Football has such a poor image because of FIFA’s woeful leadership.