Masters of the IOC universe: Putin, Gazprom, oligarchs and sheikhs


The so-called Olympic movement has showed a surprisingly strong interest in the first part of the report on the presidential race in the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The acronym ABB seems to have electrified people. It stands for “Anyone But Bach” – referring to the clear favorite among the six contenders for the IOC Presidency, the German Thomas Bach.

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On April 21st this year, most senior IOC officials met in Tianjin, northern part of China. On this day, the „Juan Antonio Samaranch Memorial Museum“ was opened, planned by the architect Ching-Kuo Wuo (Taiwan), another one of the six presidential candidates. At this occasion a conspiratorial-sounding abbreviation was used for the first time. ABT: „Anything but Thomas“. Sometime in May it changed to ABB.

Of course, the five challengers of Thomas Bach discreetly promote the ABB story among their peers. But one of them, Ser Miang Ng from Singapore, currently thought to be number two or three in the presidential race, now argues more offensively with a historical fact:

There have been eight presidents in IOC history. Seven from Europe, one from the U.S. – but none from the biggest and most populous continent. None from Asia.

So perhaps the ABB will be replaced by an ABE: From anywhere but Europe?

Personal relations count

Such momentum is not yet visible. The election of the president of the IOC is a personal choice in the truest sense of the word. Continental blocks do not seem to exist. It is quite different from for example the Olympic bid decisions, where continental considerations always play a role. But the presidential race will be decided much more by personal relationships, by sympathy or antipathy, by individual deals.

Programmatic statements are regarded as secondary. So it is almost logical that the six candidates are not allowed to publish and promote their manifestos, to advertise or to contest each other in public discussions. What is self-evident in democracies – such as TV election duels between politicians – is prohibited in the IOC.

Thus, the first presentations of the candidates were held on 4th July at the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, at the Extraordinary IOC Session, of course behind closed doors.

IOC Extraordinary Session, Lausanne 2013

After I had published the six manifestos worldwide exclusively on my blog the night before, the aides of some candidates told me: Thanks a lot. We would like to share our programmes with the public. But the ethic regulations do not allow us to do so.

The so-called Olympic movement has showed a surprisingly strong interest in the…
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Masters of the IOC universe: Putin, Gazprom, oligarchs and sheikhs

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Andreas #1

I guess, Istanbul doesn’t stand a chance at the moment, regardless who might be the next president.

I like your analysis of the current situation. But still, there are points I don’t get at the moment:

In case, your theory about the 2024/2028 Olympics is right – and it looks just like that at the moment – how would the US and the US sponsors react to that? More than 30 years without Olympic summer games. Poor Alex Gilady. In addition, this would be an intense European-centred rotation. London in 2012, Madrid eight years later, St Petersburg in 2028. Horst Dassler would be proud!

The other one: United World Championships … How on earth do they want to pull it off? Who will pay the athletes when smaller NOCs are not even able to send them to the Olympics and World Championships, how does it not collide with bigger events like IAAF World Championships or other Main events of the Federations. Also, Vizer wants to inlcude the non-IOC sports? Wow! This is going to be a massive investment! Who will chose the venues and the disciplines? Who would sponsor this collission of traditional and modern sports? On the other hand, SportAccord would not need to spend publicity money on anything like olympic motives or peace, harmony and fairness … interesting times indeed!

Vizer, experienced in the casino and gambling business, wants to establish an “International Insurance of the Sport” and an “International Lottery of the Sport“.

Well, Vizer could ask Vitali Smirnov about the setup of the lottery. Whenever Switzerland and Russia have finished their litigation about it, that is :)

JW #2

Yes, poor Alex. But, the U.S. are still far away from being a super power in the IOC.

On the other hand: Larry Probst was nominated to become an IOC member in September. (James Easton is very ill.) But in general, if you talk to people in the business, there is still no general american momentum. It will take a while. Probst is just one person. And IOC folks have not forgotten how arrogant and unworldly the Americans have behaved in the Chicago 2016 bid campaign.

Sponsors: Wow, I am surprised. I did not expect to have six american companies in the current TOP. Do I count right? Coca-Cola, Dow, GM, Big Mac, P&G, Visa? The others: Atos, Omega, Samsung, Panasonic.

And we got NBC. But, nevertheless, the american influence and the influence of sponsors and TV giants was much bigger in the 1980s and 1990s.

Unified World’s: Ask Marius. Ask Arkady. Ask Gazprom. We’ll wait and see.

For 2024 is something going on in the U.S. But I think right now: it all depends on the question how desperately the Sheikhs and Emirs want the Games. If the say: well, FIFA World Cup 2022 is enough for now, let’s wait until 2028 (IOC decision would be in 2021), if they do so, the way would be free for USOC.

Too far away. Let’s think about the next two month’s. Thrilling enough …

AX #3

Apart from the judo-connection, what is Russia’s/Putin’s interest in having the 2020 Summer Olympic Games awarded to Madrid (and not Toyko)? Similar to Andreas, I consider an olympic timeline with London, Madrid, Doha and St. Petersburg to sound too „EMEA minus A“-centric.

JW #4

@ AX: It could be: London (Europe), Rio (The Americas), Madrid (Europe), Doha (Asia, Arabia, Gulf), U.S. or St.P …

enrasen #5

Who will pay the athletes when smaller NOCs are not even able to send them to the Olympics and World Championships

What are all the development funds for? Maybe exactly that?

ha #6


Just a humble request: Why should the above mentioned prospects put Alex Gilady into a greater misery? Any special relationships with USOC there?


And we got NBC. But, nevertheless, the american influence and the influence of sponsors and TV giants was much bigger in the 1980s and 1990s.

Not according to some analyses regarding IOC’s rejection of Doha’s 2020 bid. Quatar wasn’t sidelined because of the size of the country, the heat, rumors on corruption or something like that – but exclusively because of NBC’s opposition. Too much competition for American TV-viewers in October, when Qatar wanted to hold the Games …

Maybe, you do object?

Anyway – it’s a big question for the new President: How to bridge the conflict between American TV-billions and the interests of some billionaire-sheikhs. For it’s all about the money – maybe Al Jazeera will get the next TV contract ;)

JW #7

I don’t buy the NBC argument regarding the 2020 (and 2016) short cut.

ha #8

Any reasoning for not buying it?

At least: What was the point in dropping Qatar’s last bid, if not the NBC objection? Since I haven’t read one single convincing argument but this one, seriously not. Even not in your articles or in here – as a big exception to the rule ;)

Myles Garcia #9

How can you say that: Many of those who voted for Buenos Aires, will be voting for Madrid 2020 on 7th September at the IOC Session“?

I feel the IOC voted for Buenos Aires because it would be embarassing for them to avail of Argentina’s hospitality after smacking down a bid from the capital city? How could they gather there in Sept with a straight face if they threw BA under the bus? Also, how do you know of the IOC voters‘ commitments for the Sept 7 vote? Maybe some members voted for BA now to discharge their debts forthwith and not compromise the 2020 vote. I cannot see many members trading their important regular Olympics vote for the less important YOG vote. Outside of the Latin American votes and maybe 1/3rd of the Euro votes, I don’t Madrid attracting more. Besides, some commitments might only be for the 1st round…or just 2nd round votes.

Also, Dubai already said that they are abandoning any plans to bid for 2024, so that immediately undercuts Madrid’s chances. But I agree about your views re Putin. You forgot that they belatedly grabbed the Miss Universe pageant for Moscow in November. This would be the most northerly setting for a major beauty pageant where the contestants have to parade and sell swimwear. But in November? In Moscow? (Unless they will shoot footage of the gals parading around in bikinis in Sochi, I wonder if the swimsuit sponsor will see any sales for bikinis in the middle of November??)

JW #10

@ ha: I wrote about it in May 2012. I did not mention NBC. But I have not been in Quebec City, were the decision was taken, that’s probably the reason I have missed the point. But I don’t think so.

@ Myles Garcia: You say „I feel“. See: my feelings, or better: my observations, are different.

I am not claiming to deliver answers. I am just trying to do my job. In some cases I am lucky enough to report on the basis of documents. But in the bidding game it is almost impossible to report based on docs. More or less the only „documents“ on the table are the evaluation reports produced by IOC commissions. But even IOC folks do not care about the reports. That’s one important reason for BA’s victory on 4th July.

Dubai is not the Gulf favorite. It’s Doha. And Doha is always ready. They would organize the Games next month.

ha #11

Perfect match: At Franz „Gazprom“ Beckenbauer’s so called „Camp“ Sepp Blatter announces winter WC 2022. The first to back the plan: Thomas „Sheikh“ Bach. Good spin for Doha Games 2024.

Andreas #12

Sponsors: Wow, I am surprised. I did not expect to have six american companies in the current TOP. Do I count right? Coca-Cola, Dow, GM, Big Mac, P&G, Visa? The others: Atos, Omega, Samsung, Panasonic.
And we got NBC. But, nevertheless, the american influence and the influence of sponsors and TV giants was much bigger in the 1980s and 1990s.

Yeah, didn’t find any different ones. You’re right, the American market might not be too important. And even P&G might be interested in some promotion in newer markets.

The huge funds, which belong to the IOC right now. I am wondering, how much SportAccord itself can spend. Could the Sheikh be that bold to misuse the IOC fund to work against the federation? Interesting. I agree with Jens, though. For now, we can only wait and see and clap our hands in awe when the bunny is getting pulled out of the hat.

I like the stories of the individuals. The connections between them, through companies, federations, family or the one or the other scandal over the years. After all, let’s be honest this is what drives the IOC finally. Not for the good of the sport, I think.
With this, Jens, do you plan to include some biographic material in the book? At least about our most favourite DOSB president? Where does he come from, what motivates him, what projects are on his agenda? An of course, as you hinted above, how does he think he can handle the different goals of the mighty and rich guys in the business.

Cheers :)

JW #13

Our beloved UDIOCM will be the key person in this book. This includes his bio. If I am able to do my homework I would love to create some tables and network graphics etc pp which are unique in coverage of this business. At the end of the day it will be a kind of live coverage/live writing book. But no worries: Even if I will probably not get awarded a literature prize – I will provide added value to readers and supporters.

ha #14

@ Andreas,
maybe money is overrated in the Olympic business. But somehow I would guess USD 4.38 billion, paid by NBC for covering the Games up to 2020, would ensure a share of influence for the „American market“ ;)

JW #16

Das Thema habe ich ja nicht exklusiv, ist aber dennoch fein, dass sich auch dpa hier Ideen für Texte abschaut.

JW #17

Der nächste Putin-Vertraute rückt in Vizers SportAccord auf, Sergey Soloveychik:

As chairman of the 2013 World Combat Games, Soloveychik will oversee the running of the upcoming event taking place in St Petersburg, Russia on October 18-26.

Originally from Moscow, he is also vice-president of the International Judo Federation (IJF) having been elected in 2007 and was also President of the Moscow Judo Federation (MJF) from 1998 to 2000.

via Insidethegames

Andreas #18

Na, als Chef des Europäischen Judotanzclubs ist das beinahe ein Heimspiel für ihn. Würde denken, der ist schon länger im Dunstkreis von SportAccord. Als Nachvolger von Vizer beim EJF.

Was ich interessant finde, World Combat Games? Kannte ich noch gar nicht, dabei wird das ganze schon zum zweiten mal von SportAccord ausgetragen. Wow, United World Championships sind wohl doch nur noch eine Frage der Zeit.

Andreas #19

Verzeihung für den Doppelkommentar, aber zwei Sachen fallen mir dennoch auf: Die World Combat Games scheinen sehr professionell geplant zu sein. Mitsamt 30-seitigem-Heft, wie man Logo, Maskottchen und Grafiken benutzt. Und einem Logo, auf dem die deutsche, italienische und dänische Flagge doppelt zu sehen sind; und der EU-Sternkreisel, obwohl ja nur Nationen zu sehen sein sollen. Hochprofessionell, wie die 3D-Zeichnungen des schicken Maskottchens …

Für mich aber ganz arg toll

The 2013 SportAccord World Combat Games are organised by SportAccord in close collaboration with the Russian Union of Martial Arts (RUMA) responsible for organisation and promotion of the Games.

Das heißt also, unter anderem Russische Kampfrichter? Ich glaube, ich traue Russland zu, wieder die meisten Goldmedaillen abzusahnen. Gute Nacht.

Ralf #20
trebor #21

Heinrich Böll Stiftung: Putins Spiele

JW #22

Interessant. Ich war erst eingeladen. Dann wurde ich wieder ausgeladen, weil die Veranstaltung „aus Kapazitätsgründen“ nicht wie geplant stattfinden sollte. Hm. Den Grünen kann man also auch nicht trauen?

trebor #23

Hm. Gute Frage. Werde mir vor Ort ein Bild verschaffen.

AX #24
Ralf #25

Christian Spiller für Zeit online: Ein belangloses PR-Gespräch mit Gazprom

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