Hula Report: New leaders on the horizon for National Olympic Committees as overdue elections are finally held

The pandemic and the one-year delay in holding Tokyo 2020 means that for dozens of NOCs it’s time to vote at last.

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Jorge Delgado is the first Olympic athlete to be president of the Ecuador NOC.
Jorge Delgado is the first Olympic athlete to be president of the Ecuador NOC.

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Plenty of changes are coming in the months ahead for many of the world’s 206 National Olympic Committees. A wave of new leaders should emerge to help pilot the Olympics at the grassroots globally.

The changes include powerhouses such as Australia and the U.S. along with the smallest of NOCs.

Some elections are overdue. Blame coronavirus and the one year postponement of Tokyo for that. Many NOCs schedule their elections to follow the close of the Olympic Games. Now that the Tokyo flame is out, it’s time to vote.

Already this month Greece, Belgium and Ecuador are among the NOCs picking presidents for new four year terms.

In Greece Spyros Capralos has been elected to what he says is a fourth and final term as president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee. Capralos says the HOC should begin now to search for his successor as leader of one of the world’s eminent NOCs.

Capralos, who in June was elected as president of the European Olympic Committees, may be a possibility to take the reins at ANOC, the Association of National Olympic Committees, when elections are held next in 2022.

On Sept. 4, Ecuador elected Jorge Delgado as its new NOC president. A former elite swimmer, Delgado swam in the 200m butterfly final at Munich in 1972, the first ever Ecuadorian to reach a final round.

But the intriguing choices are still to come.

Will an athlete take the helm of the German NOC known as the DOSB? Alfons Hörmann is on his way out after eight years and a string of complaints about his management style. To avoid a confidence vote that was to have been held this month, Hörmann gave notice in June that he would step down when his term ends in December.

IOC member Britta Heidemann could be in the mix as the next DOSB president. (ATR)
IOC member Britta Heidemann could be in the mix as the next DOSB president. (ATR)

A search committee led by the former president of the German Republic and a headhunter firm are supposed to come up with some names for a Dec. 4 election. IOC member Britta Heidmann might be a favorite to survive what could be a scrupulous due diligence by the DOSB committee.

Germany’s other IOC member, IOC President Thomas Bach, has registered his concerns about the discord in Germany. He stepped down as DOSB president in 2013 after his IOC election.

It is clear that women are taking their place across the realm of the NOCs. Earlier this year Stefka Kostandinova was elected to a fifth term to lead the Bulgarian NOC.

Brigitte Henriques, CNOSF president (Twitter @BrigitHenriques)
Brigitte Henriques, CNOSF president (Twitter @BrigitHenriques)

In France, Brigitte Henriques was chosen as the first female president in the 125 year history of the fabled NOC.

But in Japan, which experienced a revolution in the past 18 months with women taking charge of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, the Japanese Olympic Committee in June named Yasuhiro Yamashita to a second term as president.

The JOC has been led by Yamashita since 2018 when he took over the remainder of the term of Tsunekazu Takeda. Takeda resigned in the fallout of vote buying allegations in the bid for Tokyo 2020 seven years ago. Yamashita, president of the Japanese Judo Federation, was the ranking JOC vice president when Takeda quit.

Female possibilities for the top job at the JOC one day include Seiko Hashimoto, CEO of Tokyo 2020 and Mikako Kotani, the sports director for Tokyo. Both obviously were deep into delivering the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics when the JOC voted on its leadership in June, covering the next four years.

While numerous NOCs have set their leadership teams already, peruse the online record of ANOC to see dozens with elections for new terms still to be held. The delays are largely the result of pandemic complications that have thrown the world off stride for a second year.

The tardy elections include Argentina, New Zealand, Poland, and Austria along with a host of smaller nations. Many of these could be settled by the end of October when ANOC holds its general assembly. The meeting, by the way, will be the first in person ANOC gathering since 2019.

On the calendar for 2022 are at least two changes of the guard that will be watched closely. John Coates is set to retire as Australian NOC president after eight terms, longest of any current NOC president. While he will step down as AOC president in 2022, he’ll continue to serve as an IOC vice president to 2024.

Susanne Lyons (Team USA)
Susanne Lyons (Team USA)

In the U.S., Susanne Lyons will be stepping down as USOPC president at the end of 2022. Lyons took over in 2019, elected chair of the USOPC board, a post that’s equated with the title of NOC president. She will hit the term limit set by USOPC rules for board members of eight years.

The world’s biggest and wealthiest NOC isn’t waiting until the last minute to find a successor. In June, 18 months before Lyons leaves office, the USOPC board of directors began discussing how the search will proceed. Lyons was a board member when she became chair but one insider familiar with the early discussions tells Around the Rings the eventual choice might not come from the ranks of the current 16 board members.

Regardless, the USOPC is said to be looking for a candidate with understanding of the dynamics of the Olympic movement, what with the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics on the horizon along with a possible return to Salt Lake City for Winter Games.

No timetable has been announced for the selection process, but it’s likely to be an important topic in the quarterly meetings of the board. There are just five left to go until Lyons steps down.