PtG Article 05.10.2009

Dutch Crown Prince makes controversial proposal in the IOC

In an attempt to change the culture of corruption in the IOC, members have been prohibited from visiting the Olympic candidate cities for ten years. Now the Dutch crown prince wants to lift the travel ban.

After the election of Rio de Janeiro as host of the Olympics in 2016, the first Olympic Congress in 15 years opened this weekend at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. In his opening speech, President Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, promised that the corruption-ridden Olympic family will lead the fight against corruption in sport.   

Yet the Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, a member of the IOC, makes a controversial proposal to lift a ten-year-old anti-corruption rule in the IOC. The rule prohibits non-executive members visiting cities seeking to host the Olympics. The ban was adopted in 1999 following the discovery of at least ten members of the IOC had taken bribes from Salt Lake City and other Olympic host candidates while they stayed in the cities to inspect the athletic facilities and infrastructure.

Today, only a small selection of IOC members is allowed to visit host candidates. The Committee submits written reports to other members before the final vote, but according to the Dutch crown prince, this is not good enough.

In The Bella Center Willem-Alexander told Dutch media that if he was in charge, all 106 IOC members should be allowed to observe the cities they are voting for with their own eyes. The Crown Prince believes, however, that some restrictions should still remain. He suggests that members only travel in large groups and not individually. This would supposedly make it harder for individual members to succumb to the temptation to take bribes.

According to long time Canadian IOC-member and former President of The World Anti Doping Agency, Dick Pound, between 20 and 25 percent of the 106 present members of the IOC wants to lift the travel ban. But personally Dick Pound does not see any reasons for lifting the ban.

“It is not an issue for most of the IOC-members. It would cost a lot of money and a lot of time to send all members around the world on visits to maybe five candidate cities. And they wouldn’t see much anyway, except maybe an empty space without stadiums or buildings,” Pound says.

Also long time Australian IOC-member Kevan Gosper says that it is mostly members, who have already retired from their private careers that now want to lift the travel ban.

The President of the European Olympic Committees, which represent 43 percent of all IOC-members, Patrick Hickey from Ireland, says the travel ban has been a great success. He believes the present system with a two day candidate session in Lausanne with presentations of the bids and all IOC-members invited are the best solution to prevent members from taking bribes from Olympic candidate cities.“During the candidate cities visits in Lausanne the IOC has everything under control, so there is no risk of corruption,” says Patrick Hickey.