Meet the Real International Olympic Committee

Olympic athletes are expected to live up to the IOC's high ethical standards and portray the Olympic ideals, but what about the IOC members themselves? Photo: familymwr/flickr


In an new critical report, a group of Olympians, academics, athletes, journalists and students lead by human rights lawyer and former Olympic swimmer Nikki Dryden and investigative journalist Andrew Jennings put focus on how well the individual members of the International Olympic Committee live up to the Olympic ideals. In this comment, Dryden and Jennings explain their motivation behind the project and present what they call ‘the Real IOC’.

In just a few days the London Olympic Games will open to fanfare and fireworks. Athletes will parade around the Olympic stadium carrying their nation’s hopes and dreams on their shoulders. However these days, the athletes, the lifeblood of the Olympic Movement, not only have to do their best, they must also say, act, and be one way: Olympian.

The rules for athletes get stricter every year. Athletes cannot say or write anything that contradicts or criticizes the Olympic Ideals. If an athlete does tarnish the “Olympic” image in any way the IOC they are threatened with legal action, or worse, with expulsion from the Olympic Games through the IOC’s proxy National Olympic Committees.

Yet the leaders of the Olympic Movement, the 106 secretly chosen IOC members, are held to a different standard. In fact, it seems they are held to no standard at all.

IOC members consistently violate the supposed Olympic ethics, Olympic Charter, and even international law. Their actions, even when exposed publicly (see PhD plagiarists M Moon and Mr Schmitt) or punished criminally (see France’s Mr Drut and Korea’s Mr Lee), are overlooked, at worst resulting in a slap on the wrist. But why? 

In almost every country in the world, the Olympic pursuit is government funded, so if athletes must be held to this public standard, why aren’t IOC members? Our guess is because most people, the citizens of the world who pay for the Olympic Games and Olympians’ dreams, don’t know the Real IOC. 

An evolving handbook
Hence our report: Meet the Real International Olympic Committee, available at The Real IOC are the folk who will be in the priority traffic lanes, the best hotels and best seats in London – and at every Olympics. They produce their own bland minibiographies. We have tried a little harder. Some of this information will upset them. The fact it is true upsets them even more.

The IOC has created token athlete positions on the IOC. From the outside it seems like a great idea, not only are the athletes elected (by the athletes at the Olympic Games), but they are the only IOC members with term limits. But in the world of the IOC, those transparent and democratic processes diminish the athletes’ power as all the other members are beneficiaries of cronyism, nepotism, and secret ballots, with no time limits to the power they can accumulate or dish out. 

While athletes continue to be silenced, taken advantage of and used by the IOC, its other members in turn continue to violate their own ethical rules and the Olympic Charter with impunity. Here is where we come in. We are a group of Olympians, academics, athletes, journalists and student

s from around the globe who have put together the real biographies of the IOC. This document is meant as a public resource, a compilation of the great reporting that has been done by a select few sports and news reporters around the world. It is not meant as an original body of work, nor as a final work, but a constantly evolving handbook for those who seek the truth about the IOC.

An undemocratic and secretly selected group
The IOC in reality is made up of an undemocratic secretly elected group of ultra-elite men and as noted, a few token athletes. There are 10 princes and princesses on the IOC and at least another 2 people from military ruling families, including General Sabet, brother in law of Egypt’s ousted leader Mubarak, now serving life in prison.

Most of these elites have zero work experience, zero athletic experience, and little if any sports experience. Many IOC members have of heaps of awards and honors (Mr Blatter lists over a page and a half) but what are their real accomplishments when it comes to bringing democracy, transparency and equality to the Olympic Movement?

The IOC has been described as a “family” both by IOC members themselves and critics who compare it to the mafia. But IOC membership itself is often passed from one parent to child, regardless of that child's (or parent's before him) experience or qualifications. See Mr Dibos, Mr Singh, and Mr Samaranch Jr., Grand Duke Henri and Shiekh Ahmad and royals Princess Nora, Prince Nawaf, and Prince Albert and it is not what you know, but whose blood runs in your veins.

IOC members have also been described as unsalaried volunteers. But when traveling on IOC business, their expenses are paid, and they receive a generous per-diem allowance. They demand 5 star hotels, despite athletes only getting 3 stars. They will sit in the best seats, those reserved for the “Olympic Family.” You will find them because they’ll be the only empty seats during prelims in every Olympic venue. 

Small, elitist, militaristic sports have big power in the IOC. Know anyone who practices (or competes in) Taekwondo? What about yachting or shooting? Yet combined these three sports have 22 members on the IOC. Compare that to swimming, one of the most populous and popular Olympic sports, which has just 3.

Look at perennially popular women's sports like figure skating and gymnastics and those sports have zero IOC members. It is no wonder women continue to face systemic discrimination in the IOC. 

Thirty years after the IOC said they would open up to women's leadership, still only 19% of members are women. Those few women are recent additions and have no real power. Just two women sit on the powerful IOC Executive Board.

Women athletes, coaches and administrators have succeeded despite the IOC, not because of it. The addition of yet another man to the Executive Committee in May 2012, does nothing to dispel the notion that women are second-class citizens in the Olympic Movement. 

Proctor & Gamble, a recent addition to the IOC TOP sponsorship program, just like the IOC, does not really care about “moms” or their daughters; they just want you to watch NBC, buy Tide, and do your family's laundry. 

Speaking of sponsors, from Mr Gilady at NBC to Mr Lee at Samsung, one's professional life often runs parallel to or interconnected with one's IOC duties. And if it looks like your private life may interfere with IOC TOP sponsorship, never fear, as in the case of Mr Lee, your government will just pardon your criminal convictions so you don't lose your IOC seat.

What IOC members don’t say
But what they don't say is often a more interesting indicator of their real motives. Rarely if ever do IOC members speak up for those without power-the athletes of the Olympic Games. Moroccan IOC member and the highest ranking woman IOC member Ms Moutawakel said nothing publicly about Saudi's decision to almost not send women to the 2012 London Olympics. Canadian IOC member and Winter athlete Ms Scott didn’t speak up for the women ski jumpers who were excluded from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and IOC member and head of the International Canoe Federation, Mr Perurnena has said nothing to support the women canoeists who will be excluded from London. 

Little if any real change has or can occur until fundamental processes and values improve at the IOC. Term limits of years should be implemented for all, transparent and democratic elections need to be held, and their financial books must be opened publicly.

These are not unrealistic or unreasonable requests, everyone else in the world has to abide by these rules; even dictators today can’t get away with this sort of thing.  

Download the report

Olympic fans, athletes, and critics, you can read or download our full report for free here:
Nikki Dryden & Andrew Jennings
  • Lou Dryden, Comox,BC,Canada, 25.07.2012 10:43:
    I agree whole-heatedly with your conclusions that IOC members should be democratically elected for time specific terms and their financial books should be open to the public. Their primary role should be athlete advocacy not self-promotion. Your report is both timely and necessary. Lou Dryden.

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