Italian NOC Boss Not Taking Potential IOC Sanctions Lightly

ATR) Giovanni Malago fears that Italian athletes could be competing at Tokyo 2020 without the Italian flag and anthem.

(ATR) Italian National Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago remains concerned about possible IOC sanctions related to a draft sports law that reforms and diminishes CONI’s role over Italian sport.

Malago, also an IOC member, fears that Italian athletes could be forced to compete at Tokyo 2020 with the Italian flag and anthem being banned.

"CONI’s situation has been alarming for almost two years – that is, since when a state law took away the managerial, operational and functional autonomy of the Italian Olympic Committee," Malago tells Around the Rings. "There is great uncertainty about our future and this is not good for the Olympic movement."

The law appears to be in violation of the Olympic Charter, as it constitutes government interference affecting the Italian NOC’s autonomy presiding over Italian sport.

"For two years we have been dealing with the government to regain that autonomy that has been taken away from us," Malago said.

IOC president Thomas Bach issued a warning to CONI during a late September visit to Italy for the UCI Road World Championships.

"Together with the IOC we tried to find a mutually acceptable solution but we didn't succeed and now the time is very tight," noted the Italian NOC chief. "Only a new decree law by Government can resolve the issue."

A CONI suspension could be imposed at the IOC’s upcoming Executive Board meeting on Jan. 27.

An IOC letter to CONI outlined its concerns, stating that the NOC "should not be reorganized through unilateral decisions by the government.

"Its internal governance and its activities must be decided within the framework of its stature and the law should not aim to micromanage its internal organization and activities.

"The entities that make up CONI should remain bound by the statures of its committee, the Olympic Charter and the statutes of the international sports organizations to which they are affiliated."

Malago has spoken to Italian president Giuseppe Conte about the issues surrounding the legislation asking the government to find a swift resolution to the dispute.

"Now the file is in the hands of Prime Minister Conte, who has received two letters from IOC President Thomas Bach," Malago advised. "We hope that a legislative solution will soon be found as Italian Government has promised more times to the IOC.

"The Italian government must make a new law that must guarantee the autonomy of the CONI and respect for the Olympic Charter."

Italian Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora has insisted to the IOC that if the law should be passed, CONI would retain autonomy overseeing Italian sport.

Issues stemmed from the Italian Parliament approving a law in late 2018 establishing a government-controlled organization entitled "Sport e Salute", or Sport and Health, to manage distribution of funding to Italy’s NGB’s. The law also reduces CONI’s role to only handling preparations for the Olympic Games.

"This company was previously called CONI Servizi and guaranteed the autonomy of CONI," Malago said. "Since two years, the government has changed its name and transformed it into an in-house company of the Ministry of Sport. That's why he can't solve CONI's autonomy problems.

"And for this reason, President Bach recently declared that the CONI Secretary General cannot be an employee of a government company."

In the event of a CONI suspension on Jan. 27, Italy may have another two months to resolve the situation as the next IOC Executive Board meeting is scheduled for March.

The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games are planned for July 23 – August 8.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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