IOC board won’t meet during Sochi sports summit
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — International Olympic Committee leaders won’t be meeting in April in Sochi, Russia, in a move that signals a split with organizers of one of the biggest annual sports industry conferences.
The IOC executive board decided on Thursday not to meet during the SportAccord convention in Sochi from April 19-24, but said President Thomas Bach would attend the opening of the conference and deliver a speech.
The IOC has traditionally scheduled a board meeting every spring during SportAccord, which has rotated around the world, and was held last year in Belek, Turkey. The IOC presence has brought added prestige and media coverage to the conference.
IOC officials said they were snubbing neither Russia nor Sochi, which hosted the 2014 Winter Games. Instead, they said, there was no pressing need for the board to meet again so soon after the three-day meeting that opened on Thursday in Rio.
In addition, IOC spokesman Mark Adams noted that the bid cities for the 2022 Winter Games — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — will not be making presentations at SportAccord. In the past, the conference has served as a platform for Olympic bid cities to make their case.
“There is no dire need for people to be there,” Adams said.
The board will next meet on June 7-8 at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, before the 2022 bid cities make technical presentations to the full IOC. The host city will be selected on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By skipping the Sochi conference, the IOC will save up to $1 million in travel, hotel, and organizational costs, officials said.
The decision reflects clear political differences with leaders of SportAccord, a body which represents Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations.
SportAccord is led by Marius Vizer, a Romanian-born Hungarian who heads the International Judo Federation and has close ties to Russia. Vizer has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the Olympic movement. He was elected in 2013 as head of SportAccord, taking over from former international cycling chief Hein Verbruggen.
Vizer has proposed holding a “United World Championships” for all the sports federations every four years, a potential direct challenge to the IOC and the Olympics.
Whether the IOC board would go to Sochi has been a sensitive topic for Bach ever since SportAccord announced last July that the convention would be in the Black Sea resort. The announcement came at a time of tense relations between the West and Moscow, after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard.
SportAccord has indicated it has an option to hold the convention in Sochi for the next five years. The IOC does not want to be locked in to following SportAccord’s plans.
Bach was in Sochi this month for the anniversary of the 2014 Games, and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently in Moscow. IOC officials said he likely advised Putin of the impending decision not to hold the board meeting in Sochi, and stressed that it was not meant as a rebuff to him or Russia.
SportAccord brings together delegates from more than 100 international sports bodies as well as key Olympic and industry leaders. The conference has also hosted annual spring meetings of the Olympic summer and winter sports federations.
The convention’s official website says it “receives the full support of the International Olympic Committee, who organizes the IOC Executive Board spring meeting at each convention.”
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