Editorial: Olympic-sized PR revamp required

The International Olympic Committee well and truly lost its innocence this week with the allegations of wide scale backhanders to members.

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.

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