New ANOC Chief Opens Doors
(ATR) “A new generation of sports leaders is coming,” the new president of the Association of National Olympic Committees tells Around the Rings
Sheikh Ahmad in Quebec last month. (ATR)
“I think we are entering a special period,” said Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah in an interview last month at SportAccord in Quebec.
“From now until the IOC Session in Buenos Aires there will be a big transition for the leadership of the international sport movement,” he says, noting his ascension to the ANOC presidency, new leadership for the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and the election of a new IOC president at the 2013 Session in the Argentine capital.
“As much as we can, we must make this transition smooth, with solidarity, unity, and a clear vision. This will help prepare a good atmosphere for athletes at sports events of the future,” says Ahmad.
The 51-year old took over as president of ANOC after Mario Vazquez Rana suddenly resigned after 30 years in office. Facing the intrigue of a struggle for power, Vazquez Rana quit the post in a fiery letter that castigated Ahmad and others for leading a movement for change at ANOC. And he quit his other seats, too, as IOC member and chair of Olympic Solidarity.
It accelerated what would have been inevitable change. Vazquez Rana turns 80 in June, forcing him to retire from the IOC anyway. He could have remained at ANOC until 2014, when a successor was expected to emerge.
“We will never forget the founder, the starter of our organization, Mario Vazquez Rana. He is a great leader, he has done a lot for the Olympic Movement,” Ahmad said in tribute.
“But he dealt with the mentality of the old generation. Changing the generation is normal. We are continuing from Mario. We should be clever to continue with development and change,” he says about what’s next for the organization.
One obvious change is a more open and informal style. He could be spotted around SportAccord, in suit or casual attire, speaking to colleagues, mingling. English has replaced Spanish as the lingua franca of the ANOC president, clearly easing communications with members, whether presiding at a meeting or chatting after hours.
The ANOC president with German NOC president and IOC member Thomas Bach. (ATR)
In a break from the past, Ahmad spoke in Quebec to the general assembly of ASOIF, perhaps the first time for an ANOC president.
“We should be partners, not competitors. Whatever has been done in the past is not the right thing,” he said, proclaiming an end to the sometimes adversarial relationship between NOCs and international federations for a share of IOC revenues from the Olympic Games. Ahmad is pushing for increased dialogue with the federations.
“As much as we can to have a joint meeting, put our issues on the table, discussing face to face, we will have better solutions for the future.
“I want to play the role of coordinator, not just as leader, with the IFs, NOCs, the IOC, and with a clear vision. That is the role I wish to play in the next two years,” says the Sheikh.
He says he hopes this joint meeting could be held in London, when leaders of federations and the NOCs will be in one place. And he is pushing to launch yearly, not biennial meetings for ANOC, despite the cost and difficulties involved with summoning 200+ National Olympic Committees.
“It’s very brave to bring people together every year to give their opinion. Every two years they don’t feel like they are part of an organization,” he says. The next meeting for ANOC will not take place until 2014, under the current timetable.
“We have to increase support for the NOCs. We have to find funds, money, for the development of NOCs,” he says is among the improvements he wants to oversee.
“We have already sent a letter to the members asking how they want ACNO to change,” says Ahmad.
Ahmad says he wants bigger headquarters for ACNO, ideally in Lausanne, where currently located, along with a larger professional staff.
As president of the Olympic Council of Asia, Ahmad has seen the expansion of OCA-sanctioned events such as the Asian Beach Games and Asian Martial Arts Games. He tells ATR
that “ACNO should be seriously looking at events” as a way to diversify income for the organization.
“Always when there is a change in generation, in leadership, people start to worry about the change. As much as we can give a signal, we are using the old, but with the changes and developments of the new. I think is a good message to send the international sport movement, to the athletes, to the world about the future,” Ahmad says about new ideas coming to ACNO.
Ahmad is also president of the Kuwait Olympic Committee which has been suspended by the IOC since 2008 over a national law that gives the government control over the election of sport federation leaders.
Ahmad with Jamaica NOC chief Michael Fennell outside SportAccord host hotel Le Chateau Frontenac. (ATR)
Despite being a member of the royal family and a high-placed member of the government, Ahmad has been unable to get the parliament to change the law. As it stands, Kuwaiti athletes who qualify for the London Olympics will compete for a second Games in a row under the flag of the IOC.
“We are not asking for independence. We are asking for autonomy,” says the NOC president, expressing the hope that solutions will be found.
“Some MPs want to visit IOC headquarters to discuss the reality of why we are suspended. I hope that after this visit it will become clear and there will be changes to our local law.
“What I see is very encouraging. Some MPs have taken up the cause to bring our flag to the London Olympic Games,” he says, though time is running out with the Games just over 50 days away.
Written by Ed Hula.
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