Bach: FIFA must go through ‘painful experience’ to reform
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Saying there is “no comparison” in the scale of the IOC’s Salt Lake City scandal and FIFA’s corruption crisis, IOC President Thomas Bach urged soccer’s governing body to take the “painful” steps needed to clean itself up and restore credibility in the organization.
Bach gave his most extensive comments to date on the bribery allegations engulfing FIFA, a far-reaching scandal that led Sepp Blatter to resign as president last week pending new elections.
Bach said FIFA should press ahead with reforms, citing the measures taken by the International Olympic Committee to recover from the Salt Lake crisis in the late 1990s.
“It’s not up to the IOC to give advice, it’s just to remember that we had this kind of problems 15 years ago,” Bach said. “We also know from our experience that ... putting everything on the desk can be a painful experience, but it is absolutely necessary to do this as we have seen from our own history.”
Also Monday, the IOC executive board approved new events for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — Big Air in snowboard, mass start in speedskating, mixed doubles in curling, and a nations team event in Alpine skiing. The IOC also approved cost-cutting venue changes for seven sports for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing to $1.7 billion the total amount saved by Japanese organizers so far.
Bach said the board also moved forward with plans to set up a special “mourning place” in the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro where athletes can remember family, friends and others who have died, including the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain at the 1972 Munich Games. The IOC also plans to hold a “moment of remembrance” during the closing ceremony of the 2016 Games to honor those who have passed away.
Bach said the size of the FIFA scandal was much bigger than the case that led to the ouster of 10 IOC members for accepting improper inducements during Salt Lake’s winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.
In addition to kicking out members, Bach said, the IOC undertook structural reforms, including a ban on member visits to bid cities, creation of an ethics commission, introduction of term limits and inclusion of athlete members on the committee.
“We can only encourage FIFA to continue (with) the reforms which have been initiated,” Bach said. “We cannot give advice of what to do in detail but we appreciate there is the readiness for reforms now and for substantial reforms.”
Blatter announced he’s stepping down less than a week after seven officials were arrested in a dawn Swiss police raid on a Zurich hotel on corruption charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Blatter made the decision four days after winning re-election to a fifth term, saying he would lead reform efforts until new elections can be held.
Asked whether Blatter should step aside completely now, Bach said: “This is something that FIFA has to decide. FIFA is a federation of its own right and it is not for the IOC to interfere.”
In other developments Monday:
— Bach said a piece of stone taken from Ancient Olympia in Greece will be placed in the mourning area in the Rio athletes village, where an inauguration ceremony will be held.
“It should not be just for a certain group, it should be for everybody,” Bach said.
Asked about the victims of the Munich killings, he said: “Of course, the 11 Israel athletes and the German policemen who died in this worst moment of Olympic history, the terrorist attack in Munich, they will be remembered but there will also be others who will be remembered.”
He cited Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashivili, who was killed in a training accident on the eve of the Vancouver Games.
— While approving new events for the 2018 Games, the IOC dropped snowboard parallel slalom to make room for Big Air.
In Big Air, boarders fly off a highly pitched ramp similar to those on the slopestyle course, and perform jumps with multiple flips and spins.
__ Japanese organizers saved another $700 million by switching venues for water polo, badminton, fencing, rugby, sailing, taekwondo and wrestling. They had previously saved $1 billion in other venue moves.
Tokyo’s proposal to move indoor cycling to an existing venue an hour outside the city remains under discussion.
__ Bach said the IOC asked Rio organizers to “convey our concerns” to Brazilian authorities over continuing pollution in the waterways where the Olympic sailing and rowing events are scheduled to take place. “We are approaching major test events in August,” Bach said. “We all need to see progress in this regard.”