The weekend reports claiming that João Havelange had resigned as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) brought to mind two images from recent IOC Sessions.

The first is from Copenhagen in 2009.

The Brazilian, who as FIFA President once shared with the late Juan Antonio Samaranch the billing of 'Most Powerful Man in World Sport', is inviting fellow members of the IOC club to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate his 100th birthday in 2016.

A short while later, the photogenic Brazilian city was unveiled as the 2016 Summer Olympic Games host, beating both a Madrid bid backed by Havelange's old chum Samaranch and a Chicago bid backed by the most powerful human being on the planet.

It was a moment of purest triumph for the old warhorse.

The second is from Durban in 2011.

Joseph Blatter (pictured left with IOC President Jacques Rogge), FIFA President de nos jours and IOC member, is confiding that he will depart from South Africa with a blueprint of the IOC ethics machinery in his briefcase.

Just as it seemed that the IOC was striving to differentiate itself from FIFA in its handling of corruption-related issues, probing three IOC members – including Havelange – over allegations made by BBC Panorama, so FIFA was apparently planning to rip pages out of the IOC's book.

If there is one thing that the latest reports (if confirmed) will do, however, it is to highlight the gaping credibility chasm between the world's two most prominent sports bodies in their ethics policing.

The IOC's reputation for this – having learnt the hard way via the Salt Lake City scandal – is now very good.

Havelange's resignation will have boosted this reputation still further – and at an opportune moment with a high-stakes battle between six cities – Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome and Tokyo – for the 2020 Olympics in its early stages.

This is even though a resignation letter is reported to have cited health reasons.

By contrast, FIFA's credibility on ethics matters remains, in my judgement, very low, in spite of a recent flurry of activity.

Only last week the impact of the unveiling of its new reform chief, Mark Pieth (pictured), was partly undermined when the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said it had turned down an invitation to join Pieth's new independent Governance Committee.

Another key moment in FIFA's battle to restore its battered reputation is expected to come on December 16 and 17 at its Executive Committee meeting in Tokyo.

Blatter indicated in October that the meeting would see the reopening of a file on ISL, a company engaged by FIFA to sell World Cup broadcasting and marketing rights, which collapsed in 2001 with debts of $300 million (£192 million/€224 million).

It is from ISL that Havelange is alleged to have received $1 million (£639 million/€746 million), in the matter being looked at by the IOC Ethics Commission.

Havelange's resignation will probably end the IOC's role in the affair, since its Ethics Commission would be expected to then drop the case, as IOC rules stipulate.

According to reports, a two-year suspension at least for the Brazilian, who has denied the allegations, was expected to be considered at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne on Thursday.

This is even though the receipt of payments, such as those alleged by Panorama, would not at the time have been against Swiss law.

Blatter said in October that the ISL file would be given to "an independent organisation outside of FIFA" so they could extract its conclusions and "present them to us".

However, I understand that procedural matters laid down in Swiss law, and therefore beyond FIFA's control, are likely to slow things down, perhaps considerably.

In which case, the Tokyo meeting could turn out to be less significant than it initially appeared and scepticism about FIFA's reforms may be reinforced.

Havelange's (pictured left) resignation leaves one more, potentially delicate, issue for the IOC to navigate.

As things stand, the athletics stadium for the 2016 Olympics is to be named in Havelange's honour.

Had the Brazilian been sanctioned over the ISL affair, this would have been embarrassing for the Olympic Movement.

Now, were pressure to be applied to find a new name, it could be argued that any such move would constitute unnecessary cruelty to a sick old man who, when all is said and done, was one of the towering figures of 20th century sport.

But what if the FIFA process did eventually – ie over the next four to five years – produce unwelcome disclosures?

Sceptics and Havelange supporters will find this unlikely, but I would be surprised if those whose job it is to burnish the Olympic Movement's public image didn't continue to monitor the evolution of brand Havelange with some care.

It will not have escaped readers' attention that word of Havelange's resignation came on the same day that the former Brazil football captain, Sócrates – a figure universally associated with all that is best about his country's inimitable flair for the game – died.

It would be facile and cheap to suggest that one name might beneficially be substituted for the other: athletics wasn't Sócrates' thing and Havelange accomplished more than enough in his administrative life to warrant a Brazilian stadium being named after him.

But if Havelange deserves his stadium, then Sócrates, unquestionably, does too.

I hope those organising the world's two greatest sporting festivals in Brazil between now and 2016 will take note.

By David Owen

Source: www.insidethegames.biz


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