Olympic Games: Killy can cut a dash to save Olympic ideal

Alan Hubbard says neat solution may appeal to the Olympic chief
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The Independent Online
ONCE THE skids were under Salt Lake City it was always going to be downhill all the way for the Olympic movement. So it seems appropriate that the personality best equipped to become the saviour of the Games, steering them away from the slippery slopes of self-destruction, is arguably the greatest skiing champion of them all - Jean-Claude Killy.

The dashing downhill racer who won three Olympic gold medals in Grenoble 31 years ago is increasingly favoured to take over the presidency of the International Olympic Committee from Juan Antonio Samaranch after Sydney's summer Games next year. As a white knight in shining lycra, Killy became France's greatest living sports hero through his prowess on the piste, conquering the mountains with a combination of dare-devilment and elan.

Twenty-three years on, he translated this talent into masterminding the successful Winter Games of Albertville as co-organiser of an event which avoided the avalanche of scandal engulfing Salt Lake City.

Now, at 55, Killy is being pressed to put himself forward for the biggest job in international sport. If he agrees, he will get Samaranch's blessing, for it would neatly solve the vexing question of succession. As we predicted, there was never really any doubt that Samaranch would survive any attempt to torpedo him at last week's critical meeting of the IOC in Lausanne, which resulted in embarrassing expulsions and overdue rule changes. While, at the moment, he may be held in almost as much international opprobrium as Don King he is, like boxing's vilified tsar, not only a great manipulator but the ultimate survivor. As such he will remain powerful enough for the next 18 months to anoint Killy as his heir, even though the one-time French heart-throb has still to be persuaded.

Killy would be a more acceptable figurehead than those now scrabbling around at the foot of the throne who have been indelibly bruised by the invest-igations into IOC corruption. Moreover he is handily placed, living a snowball's throw away from the IOC headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva.

He was non-committal when asked about the speculation last week, but as a widower - his actress wife, with whom he starred in a movie called Snow Job, died in 1987 - and a semi-retired businessman, he certainly has the time. The question is whether, knowing the hassles, he has the inclination. One who believes he has is the veteran Olympic film maker, Bud Greenspan, perhaps the greatest authority on the modern Games. "Killy would be ideal," he said. "He has all the credentials - the charm, the presence and business acumen."

It also helps that Killy has a snow-white reputation. "The Games cannot afford another scandal," says the 70-year-old Greenspan. "But you cannot guarantee it won't happen again. Sport is no better or worse than any other aspect of life, and those who are looking for 100 per cent purity in the Olympics aren't living in the real world."

Greenspan, an unabashed proselytiser of Olympian ideals, has been saddened by the descent into sleaze, but he has some sympathy for Samaranch. "Remember, he doesn't get paid for the job so he is entitled to a few luxuries. He may act in a grandiose manner but I do not think he is personally corrupt. There are others in the IOC whose arrogance far outstrips his. OK, so there are some rotten apples, but you don't sack the police chief because a few cops break the rules."

One of the great disappointments of last week was how little Britain has contributed to the Olympic debate. This has been limited to a tame circular from the Princess Royal, one of the country's two IOC members, suggesting that International Federation presidents should not be members because of a possible conflict of interests.

The dearth of a princess is increasingly worrying. According to Greenspan she is one of the most talked about members - but only because she rarely shows up and when she does, she has little to say. The Princess did not attend last week's meeting as she was on a royal visit and her growing disaffection with the incipient commercialism of the Games is now openly apparent.

Her contributions are usually incidental. She is largely unapproachable and does not give interviews. An Olympian herself, in 1976, she competed in the equestrian events, but many believe it is time she came down from her high horse. Either that, or she should spend more time with her royal family, allowing a former Olympic champion such as Sebastian Coe, David Hemery, Mary Peters or David Wilkie to take her place. Any of these would bring the credibility of a working sports professional to a movement that is still skating perilously on thin ice.