(ATR) Mario Vazquez Rana tells Around the Rings he believes the global economic crisis is a danger for sport, reflects on retiring from the IOC and offers his expectations from the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara.
Around the Rings: What are you expecting from Guadalajara?
Mario Vazquez Rana: Iexpect to have good games. For many years I have been involved with the struggle to get games to this point.
We have had some happy days, we have had some difficult days.Almost a year ago, six months ago, things started to change. There came a point of no return where we couldn’t take the Games from Guadalajara.
I am still concerned for the small details, but I feel satisfied because I can tell you the big things are ready. I think the Games will be OK.
ATR: What has to be done to make other countries to pay more attention particularly the United States where there seems to be declining interest from the media?
MVR: I think that media in the U.S. especially, they work with the news agencies. I mean, with the U.S. I was the owner of the UPI. For the U.S. the presence of Associated Press can provide news for the rest of the media. We the media rely on the news agencies. So I understand that’s happening from the U.S. part. So I think the news agencies are providing much better services.
So that may be one of the reasons [fewer newspapers send reporters]. Also I think to send a reporter and a photographer, it’s not very practical to send one person or two or three for a few days and that means money. And media right now is not one of the strongest businesses, and Mexico is not an exception as well.
ATR:Are you and IOC President Jacques Rogge on good terms?
MVR: We've always been good friends, always been good friends. I think that he is close to leaving the IOC and we will always be friends in spite of his position. I know in myself but I cannot answer on his behalf but his friendship and mine is positive. I think that I've never had a misunderstanding.
Maybe there was once an exchange of opinions. I don't really know, I don't recall, I don't remember the issue. But at the end of the meeting he told me ‘you were right’.
ATR: Are you disappointed that there was no way found for you to remain part of the IOC Executive Board representing ANOC when you retire from the IOC in 2012?
MVR: No, we didn't even discuss that at the meeting. Rogge and I have not spoken about it. Once there was a comment with that. I don't want to change one single letter of the Olympic Charter because of me. I have to finish up my term as the rest of the members and I will leave the IOC Executive Board but it doesn't mean I am leaving ANOC or PASO and for sure I won't be leaving Olympic Solidarity .
I can say that I wouldn't allow to have one single word change in the Charter because of personal situation or something that could favor me.
ATR: What do you want to accomplish as PASO president?
MVR: In PASO there are many things that we can do always. For instance when we finish Guadalajara I will be able to start negotiating the TV rights for 2019. We are talking about $30 million to $40 million.
And I want 30 more in the PASO fund and now we have good funds in the bank. We have good money there I want to give a better position, a financial position and I think I can do that in 1-2 years.
I live for sports but never have taken from sports to live. The IOC never pays me for my airline tickets. So the IOC is paying for my room. I don't receive any refunds or anything and every time I go to Lausanne I have to find a way to travel because I always have to be ready to fly back to Mexico if necessary in a couple of hours. The truth is that I have never taken a cent from the IOC, which is something I am really proud of.
ATR:Is Mexico definitely the site of the PASO Assembly next year when you will seek reelection?
MVR: Yes, definitely.
ATR:Some people are saying that this next term may be your last, have you told anybody that?
Once I am re-elected, that is something I may think about. I’m not a kid anymore. The years do not go by, they stay with you. You as well!
ATR: Is there anybody prepared to take over the PASO President?
There are many. There are many but so far I haven't thought about somebody else or who can take over in PASO and ANOC as well because when I am ready to leave I will have to raise my hands and have anyone who wants to be elected and I will never put my hands in that process so it can be democratic.
ATR: PASO has $45 million? Correct?
MVR: After paying for everything that the last check was given one day before I came to Guadalajara it was given to the Netherland Antilles after paying that we have distributed a lot to the NOCs we have paid a lot we gave like $42 million.
ATR:What does it mean to have that kind of money?
MVR: Well I am proud of it. I administer PASO probably even better than my own business. For me, PASO when I arrived, it was inbankruptcy there were things that had to be repaid. For me I am very proud of the NOCs that are members of PASO. They have everything. We cover their administration expenses. We give them a grant for preparing the athletes and buy assistance for everything.
And those who can get the property, we give them out the expenses to help them the build the offices so that they can have a headquarters for the National Olympic Committee. That is something in the past we could have never dreamed of.
The Pan American Games are the cheapest games in the world when you compare them to regional continental games. The NOC doesn't spend a single dollar to bring their athletes here. We have requested the organizing committees to pay for the plane tickets for the athletes.
The Olympic Solidarity is something very well administered compared to the other pillars [of the Olympic Movement]. I say this very respectfully. The international federations take the money and we don't do that. We administer the Olympic Solidarity fund with a great experience, unique and that is always also part of the things that make me feel proud
ATR: In his report to PASO, treasurer Richard Peterkin had some cautionary words about the impact of the global economy on organizing committees and cities bidding for the games. He said that some cities may not be able to live up to their promises. Do you agree? Do you think that this is a serious issue for the Olympic movement with the economy?
MVR: So we’re talking about the world crisis. I think that the world situation in Mexico, in the U.S., in Europe, in Asia, everywhere I think that it’s going to affect everybody personally...also every single sector. That means social service or in this case sport service.
I think that this will affect us definitely but if we were to expect a strong blow there are many things that we can do to avoid this hitting us so far. We can do this in ANOC, in Olympic Solidarity or ask many NOCs to put in measures, or PASO here in the Americas because you can actually have some savings that could carry on to serve the NOCs for many years.
For some years probably we couldn't provide the same services that we are providing right now. People would be in a crisis but all the sports organization need to have a backup to fall back on if a crisis really affects you. My treasurer [Peterkin], he’s an accountant. And obviously as an accountant he has to look at what impacts that will happen in the future and what world outcomes that could affect us. I think he was very good in what he said. I think he was not far from the truth.
Conducted by Ed Hula.
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