Richard Pound: IOC Members Becoming Disenfranchised

(ATR) The IOC doyen airs his grievances with a number of unilateral decisions by the IOC Executive Board.

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(ATR) International Olympic Committee member Richard Pound tells Around the Rings that IOC members have not had any real input into the decisions by the Olympic governing body since before the Rio 2016 Olympics.

"I certainly think the strength of the International Olympic Committee lies in the independence of its basic membership," Pound said in response to a question posed by ATR at the Play the Game conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

"It’s now been a year and a half since the IOC members have had a chance to discuss anything in detail."

Pound, an IOC member since 1978, was one of the final speakers on day two of the four-day program. During his speech, he aired his grievances with a number of decisions made by the IOC over the past two years, including the response to the Russian doping scandal, the use of Olympic Summits and lack of action against IOC members suspected of wrongdoing.

"The first is the decision about Russia and the McLaren Report," he told the conference of nearly 400 delegates. "As far as his report was concerned, I submit there was really no reason to doubt the findings of the very experienced and professional investigator.

"For the IOC to have dismissed those findings as mere allegations I think was a big mistake and unwarranted in the circumstances."

Pound continued by saying the IOC should not have left the decision of Russian participation at the Rio Olympics up to the individual International Federations given the potential conflict of interest with Russian leadership in the IFs or reliance on Russia hosting their events.

"Some people start to have the feeling that participation in the Olympic Games is a right," Pound said. "In fact, it’s a privilege, and the IOC is entitled to invite those who are to comply with the conditions."

Moving past Rio, Pound tells ATR that the IOC members didn’t have a say in the new sports for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

"We didn’t vote – which we’re supposed to do for sports on the 2020 program – and all of a sudden we’ve got rock climbing and some of these other sports. The Executive Board made [the decision] but new sports are supposed to be the Session."

Despite Pound's comments, the membership of the IOC did in fact approve the recommendation of the five new sports for Tokyo 2020 at the IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro. However, it is clear Pound believes members should have had more of a say in the decision opposed to approving a recommendation.

While IOC members also didn’t have much of a choice in awarding the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games to Paris and Los Angeles this September, Pound realizes this was a "convenient outcome" for the organization.

"The Paris/LA thing, I think we all recognized that was a convenient outcome for the situation and that sort of a deal can’t really be negotiated by the membership," he said. "But we authorized the Executive Board, if you can make this happen you have our approval."

When asked by ATR if this lack of decision-making power by members has led to concerns of disenfranchisement for IOC members not on the Executive Board, Pound said, "Yes, a little bit."

"I said to [IOC President] Thomas [Bach] at the Lima Session that there’s a perception you guys have taken over too much power on the Executive Board, why don’t you come back to us with suggestions about how that can be alleviated," he said.

"But they’re probably in no hurry to give up any of the power. It tends to be convenient but suffers from being too narrow."

Reported and written by Kevin Nutley in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

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