The International Olympic Committee well and truly lost its
innocence this week with the allegations of wide scale backhanders to
Once the regarded as the bastion of democracy in sport, dedicated to
providing a level playing field for sportsmen and women of all nations,
the IOC has emerged from the whole sorry situation with its reputation
as riddled with sleaze as any recent UK Government.
Having found itself under siege from the media, the IOC has now called
in Hill and Knowlton to help it steer its way through this particular
crisis. At the same time, in a separate move, it is launching a global
branding exercise to promote the 2000 games.
The problem is that this isn’t just about promoting the games. Over the
last few years, the IOC has transformed from an egalitarian gathering of
impartial dignitaries with an interest in sport into the steering
committee of probably the biggest sports marketing opportunity in the
The opportunism that turned the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta into an
unseemly marketing bonanza effectively drew the Olympics into a new and
more brutal arena - a fact of which the IOC is undoubtedly aware.
In 1996, the committee was forceful in its denunciation of the overt
commercialism displayed at the Atlanta Games. And since then it has done
much to put in place checks on such rampant commercialism, while also
coming to terms with the fact that it still has to steer a commercial
concern, although there is obviously still much room for
The fault lies less in lack of action, but in lack of communication and
an arrogance on the part of Juan Antonio Samaranch. The IOC’s
78-year-old president has refused to resign and still claims that he is
the man to lead the Olympics towards a more wholesome future, despite
the fact that he was president at the time of the rampant commercialism
which led to the corruption surrounding Salt Lake City’s successful bid
for the 2002 winter Olympics. This is indicative of dangerous
The IOC has until now failed to realise that it is as accountable for
its actions as any other public body. Having entered the commercial
arena, it is even more vital that the IOC comes to terms with the fact
that it is not a law unto itself, and must become more transparent in
its dealings if it is to effectively position what will be the first
Olympics of the digital age.
Its lost innocence cannot be regained, but there is a middle ground that
can be established between altruism and professionalism as shown by the
success of the Barcelona Olympics.