IOC reform panel fails to reach consensus on visits

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The Independent Online

The International Olympic Committee's reform panel failed on Saturday to resolve the crucial issue of whether members should be banned from visiting bid cities.

The International Olympic Committee's reform panel failed on Saturday to resolve the crucial issue of whether members should be banned from visiting bid cities.

But the panel endorsed a series of other key proposals, including the appointment of 15 athletes to the IOC and the introduction of an eight-year term of office and re-election process for IOC members.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a member of the IOC 2000 reform commission, said he believed the reform package would satisfy the IOC's critics in Congress.

"I think more has been achieved than many ... thought possible," he said. "On the whole, I think we're making good progress."

The 80-member task force, set up in the wake of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, examined 50 proposals drafted by its executive committee. The final recommendations will be submitted to the full IOC general assembly at a special session in Lausanne on 11-12 December.

The IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, is to appear before Congress on 15 December to testify about the reforms. Congress has threatened sanctions unless the IOC enacts significant changes.

The issue of visits to bid cities dominated the meeting, which was completed in one day instead of the scheduled two. But, in a defeat for Samaranch, the commission failed to endorse the recommendation for a blanket ban.

With no consensus reached, Samaranch decided to submit two proposals to the December meeting: One calling for no visits, and the other - suggested by Kissinger - allowing for visits on a tightly-controlled basis.

After the revelations of improper inducements stemming from Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games, the IOC banned visits during the bidding for the 2006 Games.

But many members argued on Saturday that visits should be reinstated, under restrictions, so that delegates can make an informed choice on host cities.

Tommy Sithole, an IOC member from Zimbabwe, said a ban on visits would suggest the IOC does not trust its own members. "It makes criminals of all of us," he said. "I don't think I shouldn't be able to visit the cities because someone is afraid that someone might slip something into my pocket."

Austrian member Philip von Schoeller said: "This decision proves that those who have remained loyal to the organization are not to be trusted. They are regarded as potential crooks."

Also opposing a ban on visits was the former UN Secretary, General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

"We should leave as much freedom as possible," he said. "We should trust the members and let them act. I don't think adding a prohibition on visits is going to help enhance the image of the IOC."

But there were just as many delegates arguing in favour of a ban.

"The IOC is in the public eye as never before," British member Craig Reedie said. "I think we have to be responsive to public opinion. The only way we can do that in the short term is by not visiting bid cities."

The American IOC vice president, Anita DeFrantz, who chaired a working group on the site selection process, said: "The downside of visiting the cities far outweighs the positive benefits."

DeFrantz and others said members should rely on the findings of a special evaluation commission - made of IOC and non-IOC technical experts - which will continue to visit cities and prepare a detailed report on each bid.

The reform group endorsed a recommendation on Saturday for the introduction of a bid selection procedure, requring prospective bid cities to meet certain criteria before being allowed to sumbit a bid.

Kissinger proposed that those members who feel a need to visit a bid city be allowed to do so - but only in organized groups, for a specified time period, and at the expense of the IOC.

"There can be no lavish entertainment and gifts and so forth - this must be guaranteed," Kissinger said.

Samaranch repeated his adamant opposition to visits but said he would accept whatever the members decide. "Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am not right," he said.

While some reforms will require a two-thirds vote for passage, Samaranch said the ban on visits would only need a simple majority because it wouldn't entail changing the Olympic Charter.

On other issues, the commission endorsed a proposal for an age limit of 70. But the rule will apply only to future members, while the existing 100-plus delegates will continue to be covered by the 80 age limit.

Eight-year terms of office will be introduced for all members, including current delegates. After eight years, members can seek re-election by the IOC assembly.

There was a long debate - but no consensus - on the recommendation for IOC presidents to be limited to a single eight-year term.

Many delegates objected, saying presidents should have a chance to run for a second term of four or eight years.

Samaranch said he would put both proposals to the December session.

Among other recommendations approved Saturday:

- the IOC to have a maximum of 115 members.

- 15 active athletes to be appointed as full IOC members.

- the renovated IOC to include 15 presidents of international federations and 15 presidents of national Olympic committees or continental associations.

- 70 members to be elected on an individual basis.

- creation of a special selection committee to screen candidates for IOC membership.

- the executive board to be expanded from 11 member to 15, with a permanent seat reserved for athletes.

Drugs

- Olympic oath for athletes to include statement on drug-free sport.

- All Olympic athletes to hold "passport" listing their drug control records.

- IOC to conduct out-of-competition tests before Olympics.

- Sports that fail to apply anti-doping rules risk being barred from Olympics.

Host Selection

- Introduction of minimum standards, forcing cities to meet certain criteria before being allowed to bid and thus avoiding unecessary expense.

- IOC evaluation commission to visit bid cities and prepare report.

- In the absence of consensus on visits to bid cities, two proposals to go to full IOC session: Either a complete ban on visits by IOC members; or strictly controlled group visits supervised by IOC.

- Full IOC to choose host city by secret ballot.

Finances

- Flow of IOC funds for each four-year period to be disclosed.

- Disclosure of funds allocated to national Olympic committees and international federations.

- Bid cities to disclose their funding.

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