THE COLUMN: Pere Miró, the IOC mediator with Samaranch, Rogge and Bach who sits again in front of the Taliban as he did a quarter of a century ago

The Spanish expert could have dealt with up to 200 cases of varying magnitude in the Olympic Movement, among them the negotiation for the participation of the two Koreas in Pyeonchang 2018 and in the recent IOC humanitarian operation in Afghanistan.

Pere Miró, one of the key people at the IOC
Pere Miró, one of the key people at the IOC

One expert claims that in all this time the Spaniard Pere Miró could have been involved in about 200 processes in the Olympic world. From serious conflicts over violations of the Olympic Charter to simply accompanying the Olympic Committees of five continents in their statute revisions.

The first problem Miró faced was the Taliban, when he first took up his Olympic post in 1997. Twenty-four years later, he is once again face to face with the Afghan tragedy.

But this time the reality is different, because with the return of the Taliban militants to power by force, thousands of Afghans have been evacuated to several countries, including several hundred high-performance athletes, in an operation designed by the IOC in which Miró participated.

A source close to the IOC delegation that attended a meeting in Doha, Qatar, with representatives of the new Afghan regime a week ago told Around The Rings that Miró was “cautious”.

The Catalan official has become a quintessential negotiator on critical political issues affecting the Olympic Movement after working with three IOC presidents: Juan Antonio Samaranch, Jacques Rogge and Thomas Bach.

FILE PHOTO: Died on April 21, 2010: Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President  International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch smiles during a news conference at the end of a two-day session on Olympic reform in Lausanne December 12. IOC leaders agreed to ban members from visiting cities bidding to stage the Olympics in response to the biggest corruption scandal in te organisation's history. The measure is part of a reform package of some 50 recommendations which have been passed by the session as the IOC attempts to change the way it is run. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Died on April 21, 2010: Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC President International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch smiles during a news conference at the end of a two-day session on Olympic reform in Lausanne December 12. IOC leaders agreed to ban members from visiting cities bidding to stage the Olympics in response to the biggest corruption scandal in te organisation's history. The measure is part of a reform package of some 50 recommendations which have been passed by the session as the IOC attempts to change the way it is run. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Samaranch was the one who discovered him and “signed him up” for his team in Lausanne after the success of the Barcelona Olympic Games, where he was a member of his Organizing Committee as Deputy Director General of Operations.

When Anselmo López, an important figure in Spanish sport, left the post of Olympic Solidarity where he had been its first director, after the Atlanta Olympic Games, Samaranch called Miró to succeed him. He would also appoint him as head of Relations with the National Olympic Committees.

López died in December 2004 at the age of 94. He was a player, national coach and president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, promoter of mini-basketball in his country, vice-president and general secretary of the Spanish Olympic Committee, director of the Superior Sports Council and vice-president of the 1982 World Cup.

I was his traveling companion during the three and a half hour flight of the now defunct Swissair from Moscow to Geneva. We had attended Samaranch’s farewell after 21 years at the head of the IOC. The time flew by listening to his stories. He confirmed to me in passing that Samaranch’s favorite club, which was traveling on the same flight that July 17, 2001, just on his birthday, was Spanish and not Barcelona.

The Taliban took over Kabul in September 1996. The United Nations did not recognize their government. Already in his new position, Miro took it upon himself to monitor the Taliban’s hard line extended to sport with its restrictions, including banning women from competing.

In talks with the IOC, Afghan officials insisted that the country had competed in every Summer Olympics since 1936 and had athletes training in several sports ahead of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Afghanistan was suspended by the IOC in 1999. Of the 200 countries with national Olympic committees, it was the only one banned from the Australian event where UN-administered East Timor made its appearance. Its four athletes competed under a neutral flag.

With the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Miro went to Kabul on the instructions of his boss, Jacques Rogge, to gather information on the ground that could help lift the Olympic ban. In 1993, the IOC Session in Praga approved the recognition of Afghanistan and its return to the Olympic Games in Athens 2004.

Since 2000, Miró made use of 10 basic and essential points of the Olympic Constitution set by the Senegalese judge Keba M’baye, president of the IOC Legal Commission - deceased in 2007 - which had to be compulsorily complied with by the 205 NOCs, such as full respect for the principles of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the presence of women in their executive committees.

The so-called governmental interference against Olympic autonomy has been the common denominator in most of the cases under Miró's attention.

But not only. In the 2000 Commission, created by the IOC for the establishment of reforms as a consequence of the so-called “Salt Lake City scandal”, he was directly linked to Thomas Bach, who coordinated one of the three Working Groups.

For 10 years, from Kuwait’s first Olympic suspension in 2009 to the lifting of sanctions in 2019, a good portion of his time was taken up with the plight of that country’s Olympic Committee due to government intrusion. Kuwaiti athletes competed under the Olympic flag at the 2012 and 2016 Games.

Negotiations for the participation of the two Koreas in a joint team at the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics hung in the balance until the last minute, but in the end led to a historic event, an outcome from which Miro did not hide his satisfaction.

But disenchantment returned, and the illusion of a future joint bid by Seoul and Pyongyang could also be damaged.

The IOC suspended the North Korean Olympic Committee until the end of 2022, being the only one that did not participate in the Tokyo Games, but has reserved the possibility of “reconsidering” the duration of the sanction without vetoing North Korean athletes for the Beijing Winter Olympics in three months’ time.

Since the end of 2018 and after 26 years as director of national Olympic committee relations and Olympic Solidarity, Miro has focused exclusively on his role as deputy director general, working with IOC senior leadership on actions in the face of critical situations in the Olympic Movement.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends sports and cultural events being held to mark the completion of the remodelling of Songdowon International Children's camp in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang May 3, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA/File Photo     ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT.?
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends sports and cultural events being held to mark the completion of the remodelling of Songdowon International Children's camp in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang May 3, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT.?

One such concern, which is being monitored from Lausanne, is what the IOC describes as “political discrimination” against countries in light of the veto of Kosovo in some world events. In a letter signed by Miro to the international federations, they have been asked that before awarding venues for their competitions, there should be a guarantee of respect for the rules of the Olympic Movement.

Two weeks ago, the Spanish official attended as IOC observer the elections of the Mexican Olympic Committee, which went smoothly. As IOC representative in Mexico, Olegario Vázquez Raña had suggested to Thomas Bach that he send Miró, “because he is a man who perfectly understands the Latin American mentality.”

From the Mexican capital, the Spanish Olympic official went to sit at every other table in Doha, Qatar, with the Taliban to talk about the future of sport in Afghanistan.

The Taliban pledged to respect the Olympic Charter. The IOC will be keeping a close eye on the new circumstances.

What will happen?

“We’ll see,” replies the IOC’s cautious negotiator.

KEEP READING: