Prime player behind the Singapore sting

Reedie bows out, but he may have a word with Blair about the political rumpus he is leaving behind
Click to follow
The Independent Online

He has also presided over two of the most successful Olympics in the history of British sport, in Sydney and Athens, and helped establish the BOA, once viewed as a glorified travel agency and repository for stuffed blazers, as arguably the most efficient and productive sports body in the land. And all accomplished without a penny of Government money.

However, his succession - of paramount importance with an Olympics to be organised - is not without some unwelcome controversy. On Wednesday, the 43 voting members of the BOA must decide between two former Olympians, the 1968 hurdling gold medallist David Hemery, 60, and the ex-Conservative sports minister Lord Colin Moynihan, 50, who won silver as a rowing cox in 1980.

Reedie declines to express a view, but he does admit concern at stories alleging Government intrusion. It has been widely alleged that the bureaucrats from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have been pressuring BOA members not to support Moynihan as he is deemed "politically unsuitable". It is known that the Government do not want him working alongside another Tory lord, Sebastian Coe, as a principal player in organising the Games, even though Moynihan has promised to withdraw from active politics, as Coe did some years ago.

Reedie says: "If the reports are true then it is quite outrageous. The independence of national Olympic committees is ingrained in the Olympic Charter. Any such interference would be seriously intolerable." So it would hardly be surprising if there was a firm word about this in the prime ministerial ear.

A member of the International Olympic Committee since 1994, Reedie has always been well placed in the corridors of power and has the ear not only of the prime minister, with whom he established a rapport during the Olympic bid, but also perhaps more critically the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, a good friend.

Others may have emerged from 6 July with greater glory, but no one did more groundwork. Reedie and his wife of 38 years, Rosemary, a retired GP, were popular figures on the Olympic networking circuit, but it was not only his contacts but his experience as a member of the evaluation and co-ordination commissions for Athens and Beijing that helped formulate London's winning strategy.

Attempts have been made to persuade Reedie to stay on, but he says: "It is time to go. The role of the chair has changed. It stops being a money-raising job and becomes a medal-winning one, and I'm not entirely sure that someone of 70-plus, which I shall be in 2012, is the right person to oversee youngsters winning those medals. I was watching Andy Murray the other day when I suddenly realised I used to play badminton with his grandparents.

"Unfortunately, I see in myself the beginnings of an old fart, with some of the characteristics of sports officials that I didn't like 20 years ago when I became involved in sports administration."

Loch Lomond's banks might have seen bonnier days than the one when we met there for lunch last week, but for Reedie the future is far from overcast. In fact, he will be only a tad less busy, staying on the IOC [he is a member of the marketing commission and is expected to become an executive committee member] and as a director of the London organising committee, acting as a bridge with the IOC. Plus he is ready to lend a helping hand to a prospective Glasgow bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He is also treasurer of the World Anti-Doping Agency, his former life as a financial consultant equipping him to oversee their $26m (£14.7m) budget. He also aims to reduce his golf handicap from seven to five.

Reedie took over as the BOA chairman following the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and said his greatest satisfaction has been making the organisation commercially viable while maintaining its independence, and, together with the chief executive, Simon Clegg, developing services for athletes which include state-of-the-art medical facilities and ultra- professional pre-Games training camps.

But it is 2012 that will be remembered as Reedie's greatest triumph. Here he pays tribute not only to Coe's leadership ("the role fitted him like a glove") and the role of his deputy, Keith Mills ("if anyone's contribution was underplayed it was his") but also to Coe's predecessor, Barbara Cassani, whose appointment he opposed. "I've always held the view that her decision to go was brave. It was presented as a plot, but it wasn't. I suspect she would have made a better chief exec-utive than a chairman because she is a real doer, but I don't think she particularly liked the lobbying process, and her American nationality was clearly an issue."

Reedie says he first sensed London had a really good chance about three months before Singapore, when an IOC contact told him that Iraq would not be an issue as it was seen as Bush's war. "It also became clear after the last election that Blair's image was far better internationally than in Britain, as was apparent when he decided to go to Singapore. In the hottest race the IOC had ever had, his presence was crucial. For once, we seemed to be a really co-ordinated bunch of people with all our politicians singing off the same hymn sheet."

He believes one reason London pipped Paris was that "the IOC like to have bids run by sports people backed up by the political movement in their country, not the other way round." The crestfallen Paris bid leader, Philippe Baudillon, was a guest of R & A member Reedie at The Open soon afterwards, and confided: "We wish we could control our politicians as you did yours."

While he anticipates the inevitable scare stories about costs and delays ("we lived with scepticism throughout the bid and I'm quite relaxed about it") he sees 2012 as a win-win situation. "I think we will become a better, healthier society because of the Games. But the important thing is that élite sport, Olympic sport, goes up the social and political agenda. Nothing else could have achieved that."

A knighthood is now on the cards for Reedie, already a CBE. As an IOC member he sits alongside his BOA president, the Princess Royal, and with a bit of luck and a nudge from on high some think he might even find himself hanging an ermine cloak alongside that of Lords Coe and Moynihan (who seems set to confound the New Labour attempt at control freakery) in the peers' cloakroom. Whatever the accolade, few in sport will have been better deserved.