Richard Carrion declares IOC presidential bid
LONDON (AP) — Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico entered the IOC presidential race Wednesday, promising to use his business experience to guide the Olympics through the world’s troubled financial times and proposing to deploy IOC staff permanently in host cities to help organize the games.
The 60-year-old Carrion, a banking executive who chairs the IOC finance commission and has spearheaded multi-billion dollar television rights deals, became the third member to declare as a candidate for the most powerful job in the Olympic movement.
“We are at a crossroads,” Carrion said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We will have to keep innovating and evolving or else we’ll become less relevant. A lot of change is coming. I think I can manage in that kind of environment.”
Carrion follows IOC vice presidents Thomas Bach of Germany and Ng Ser Miang of Singapore in formally announcing bids to succeed Jacques Rogge, who steps down in September after 12 years as head of the International Olympic Committee.
C.K. Wu of Taiwan, head of the international amateur boxing association, is expected to announce his candidacy on Thursday. Former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka of Ukraine is expected to follow soon, and Denis Oswald of Switzerland is likely to run and complete a six-man field.
The election will be held on Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Carrion sent a letter to all IOC members Wednesday announcing his presidential bid, along with a 14-page document laying out his platform and heralding the arrival of a “Great Olympic Era.” He proposes raising the age limit for IOC members, which is currently 70.
“I have been in positions where I have maneuvered in difficult periods and I have helped safeguard the position and financial standing of the IOC as well as the revenue of the IOC,” Carrion said in a telephone interview. “I have managed large complex organizations all my professional life. In difficult periods, in time of upheaval, I have done that successfully.”
Carrion, an IOC member since 1990, served on the policy-making executive board from 2004-12. He has been chairman of the finance commission since 2002 and the audit commission since 2006. He serves on the coordination commission for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Carrion is also chairman and CEO of Popular Inc., the financial services company which operates Banco Popular and other banks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. He is a member of the board of directors of Verizon and a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
As the head of TV rights negotiations for regions outside of Europe, Carrion helped raise more than $8 billion in revenues. He led the negotiations that secured a record $4.38 billion deal with NBC for U.S. TV rights through 2020. He has also overseen the growth in the IOC’s financial reserves over the past 10 years from $100 million to $900 million.
While his financial credentials are important, the job requires more than a top money man and needs someone passionate about the Olympic values and ideals, Carrion said.
“This is an organization based on values,” he said. “I am a person that is very much attuned to financial trends but I recognize very deeply the moment we forget our values, it doesn’t matter how many TV contracts you have, it doesn’t matter how much money is in the bank.”
Carrion said the IOC is in a strong overall position but must take action to deal with potential risks and challenges, including the financial downturn, doping, match-fixing, youth obesity and threat of natural disasters.
“Nobody was predicting the financial crisis we’ve been going though the past five years,” he said. “It’s the things that you don’t know about that you have to have the leadership in place to maneuver through that environment.”
Carrion proposes “insourcing” or bringing more functions directly under IOC control, as the committee has done in recent years with marketing and the Olympic Broadcasting Services. He specifically recommends putting permanent IOC management teams in place in host cities.
“We can probably do a lot more of the organizing functions with a small dedicated cadre of people that would be on site continuously and start looking at which functions we can do more efficiently and not having to reinvent the wheel,” Carrion said. “We probably have to go a little further and have people on the ground that have had experience generating budgets.”
Carrion said an IOC permanent presence would be useful in Rio, which has been facing delays and challenges in preparing for the 2016 Games. As a member of the coordination panel for Rio, chaired by Morocco’s Nawal El Moutawakel, he has seen the problems up close.
“There are games that are better prepared and games that give us a little more trouble,” he said. “I think in the coordination commission of Rio, Nawal has spoken directly to the president of Brazil and to the mayor. We told them of certain concerns. They’re aware of it.
“It’s something we will have to be on top of. I know the president (Rogge) has also made them aware. We’ve seen these types of situations in the past. It requires constant monitoring.”
On other issues, Carrion said it was time to review some of the reforms that were enacted in 2000 in the wake of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, including the imposed age limit of 70 for IOC members. He suggests 75 would be a more appropriate retirement age.
“It’s now 13 years later, it’s time we look again at all of those things we passed,” he said. “It’s time we took a good hard look at them and review what their impact has been. Is there something we want to change? Perhaps it turns out to be a few tweaks here and there or perhaps it’s something more profound.”
Carrion said it’s time to develop a new system for distributing Olympic revenues among the IOC, sports federations, national Olympic committees and other bodies.
“It’s going to be difficult to continue increasing the revenues at the same rate for the next 10 years as we did for the past 10 years,” he said. “We need to see if we can develop new sources of revenues. Given today’s economic realities, it’s going to force us to be more efficient. We can do more for less.”
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