by Nuno Delicado, Negotiation & Sport Management Consultant, PLURIS, Portugal/Singapore
I am a big fan of the Olympic Movement, its role in promoting sports as a catalyst of peace, friendship, human development, self-esteem... better people and a better world! For me, sport is a school of life. A lab where we test ourselves, our limits. Where we learn and improve over time. Where we make friends from all corners of the world. Learn to train and compete with them, learn to respect, to help, and to get help from them. Sport is life.
As a fan of Olympism, I can see things that could be improved in how it is organized. For instance, I am puzzled by IOC governance, so I contributed the following text to the Virtual Olympic Congress:
Walking the talk on governance
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has invested significantly in promoting and demanding good governance in national sport systems across the globe, in particular after political crises leading to the disruption of established government and sport institutions: for instance, in Timor-Leste after its independence, in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime, in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.
The IOC requires officially recognised National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to function democratically, governed by adequate constitutions, making key decisions in valid general assemblies, ruled by properly elected individuals.
In each country, Olympic sports are typically organised in a pyramidal structure: in its base are athletes, who are members of clubs, which in turn are members of federations (or sometimes regional associations), which in turn are members of NOCs. Members of each organisation are present in general assemblies and have the power to elect the organisation's leaders and make key decisions such as approving annual plans and annual reports.
Oddly enough, members of the IOC are still natural persons, a majority of them whose membership is not linked to any function or office. This means that most members of the IOC, who make critical decisions for the whole Olympic Movement in Sessions, do not represent anyone else than themselves.
The 1999 reform brought very positive (but still marginal) improvements to IOC governance, by establishing terms and age limits to members, and opening membership to athletes and leaders of NOCs, International Federations (IFs) or other organisations recognised by the IOC. However, a more radical change is required to bring the IOC up to date as a 21st century organisation.
It is not difficult to envision a better model. What does the IOC require from the sport organisations it recognises? Would it ever recognise an NOC whose members were individuals representing themselves? How would one expect the IOC to be constituted if it was to be created from scratch now? Probably through the association of world NOCs and IFs, which would become the members of the Session, represented by their leaders, and would elect IOC leaders and make all key decisions.
The challenge to surpass powerful conflicts of interests is significant: why would current IOC members decide to make themselves ineligible? But change is necessary and urgent: the early 20th century model of a private club whose members elect new members and make critical decisions cannot ensure the fairness, transparency, and accountability that the global Olympic Movement demands and deserves. Perhaps current members won't take the initiative in driving change, but they may be sure that Olympic stakeholders (athletes, coaches, referees, sport managers, clubs, federations, NOCs, IFs, the public, sponsors, the media, etc.) will increasingly demand it and soon make it inevitable.
Let the change begin!