IOC cleaned up act but not Fifa
SPORTS TALK WITH JOSEPH ROMANOS
The International Olympic Committee and the International Football Federation once vied for the ‘‘honour’’ of being the most corrupt major sports organisation in the world.
Not any more. The footballers are winning that race decisively.
In the 1980s and 90s, when Brazilian Joao Havelange ran football and Spaniard Juan Antonio Samaranch the Olympics, the financial impropriety was gob-smacking.
It ranged from political favours and bribery to fraud and backhanders and was estimated to run to billions of dollars.
The IOC, whose delegates included a grasping, corrupt group open to any sort of inducement, faced a watershed when the hosting rights of the 2002 winter Olympics went to Salt Lake City.
The scale of the corruption then exposed was so vast the organisation simply had to clean up its act.
It has largely done so, for example introducing rules to prevent widespread corruption over host city voting.
The International Football Federation (Fifa) has not, however, undergone any sort of cleansing.
Havelange bestowed titles and money on his family and ran international football as if it was his fiefdom.
He gained the support of Asian and African countries, in particular, by offering them the chance to host new tournaments, such as the under-17 and under-20 World Cups, the women’s World Cup and the Confederations Cup, which were all introduced during his reign.
Havelange was also a member of the IOC from 1963 until 2011, so it could be said he was double dipping in corruption.
As an example, in 1999, De Telegraaf, the largest Dutch newspaper, reported that Havelange accepted gifts of diamonds, bicycles, sports articles, Delft blue porcelain, paintings and art books in connection with Amsterdam’s failed bid for the 1992 Olympics.
"I remember it well because he had special wishes, which were in conflict with the IOC laws,’’ said Peter Kronenberg, who ran the Amsterdam Olympic Games 1992 Foundation press office.
When Havelange stepped down as Fifa boss, he anointed Sepp Blatter of Switzerland as his replacement.
Blatter was Fifa technical director from 1975 until 1981, and its general secretary from 1981 till 1998, so no-one knew where to find the money and the votes better than him.
Though he’s 79, Blatter has just won his fifth Fifa presidency vote, beating Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein 133-73.
You might wonder what Blatter can bring to Fifa at his advanced age.
He’s been among the Fifa hierarchy for 40 years. Surely if he had good ideas he’d have introduced them by now.
What’s more, Fifa has just been rocked by a US$150 million bribery and corruption scandal, with a dozen prominent officials arrested.
And that investigation relates only to happenings in North and South America, so does not touch on the scandal of how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, for example.
US attorney general Loretta Lynch has called corruption in Fifa ‘‘rampant, systemic and deep-rooted’’ .
Blatter has been told to expect to be questioned ‘‘within weeks’’.
Yet the most powerful man in football blithely says his conscience is clear and it’s all nothing to do with him.
Now and then there is a pointer to what’s really going on.
In 2002, Somalia Football Federation president Farra Ado said he was offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter at that year’s election.
But Blatter bats away such claims, as did steroids-soaked cyclist Lance Armstrong for many years.
Like Havelange and Samaranch, he is a master at covering his tracks.
From the outside it seems likely he has been complicit in some of Fifa’s most shameful excesses.
But proving matter.