Vizer says ‘sorry’ for manner of IOC attack, defends content
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Marius Vizer apologized Wednesday for the manner of his attack on the IOC but stood by the harsh criticism that prompted Olympic sports federations to suspend ties with his umbrella body.
With IOC President Thomas Bach in attendance as a guest, Vizer demanded more power for sports federations Monday and branded the IOC system as “expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent.”
That sparked an immediate backlash among some of SportAccord’s members, who are Olympic and non-Olympic federations.
The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which represents the 28 sports in the games, suspended its involvement with SportAccord in protest. Four individual federations withdrew or suspended their membership.
“Sincrerely I regret ... regarding my way and moment to choose this opportunity, but regarding the content, I expressed my voice and that is my opinion,” Vizer told the ASOIF assembly Wednesday, appearing in his capacity as head of the International Judo Federation.
“For the rest, I am sorry, but I think everybody in the world of sport is free to express their opinion, to have vision.”
Shortly after delivering his remarks, Vizer left the ASOIF meeting and did not take part in later discussions on Olympic revenue distribution and preparations for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.
Vizer, who was re-elected Monday to a four-year term as SportAccord president, was defiant in a television interview broadcast Tuesday night.
“I expressed the reality of sport today,” he said on Euronews. “I don’t care if some people are afraid to say that but I say that. We don’t need cardinals of sport. We don’t need popes.”
ASOIF’s meeting was a hostile environment for Vizer after 27 of its member federations, all except his own judo organization, signed a letter condemning Monday’s speech.
Reaction to Vizer’s apology was mixed.
“We believe the IOC is a very strong machine,” ASOIF president Francesco Ricci Bitti told Vizer. “It is a waste of time to make a war, in our opinion, from our side, or to try to destabilize the system.”
Vizer should have apologized to Bach and the IOC personally, said ASOIF vice president Hassan Moustafa, who also runs the International Handball Federation.
“We have to respect (Bach), we have to respect the IOC,” Moustafa told The Associated Press. “You have to apologize to the president of IOC.”
Brian Cookson of the International Cycling Union was also critical.
“This time last year I expressed some views about the reorganizing of the Winter and Summer Olympics and Mr. Vizer slapped me down publicly and said that I should be more diplomatic and tactful and so on,” he told the AP. “I’m therefore surprised that he has not taken that approach himself.”
Mario Pescante, a senior Italian IOC member and former IOC vice president, said he was shocked by Vizer’s comments.
“It showed a lack of respect for the manners that have always been present in the Olympic movement,” Pescante said in a statement to the AP. “It’s never occurred that an IOC president who is a guest at a convention of that sort is attacked in that manner. I don’t ever remember that happening before.”
Pescante said he had spoken with 15 fellow IOC members and all shared his view.
“It was an unappreciated lack of style,” Pescante said. “I believe, together with these IOC members, that Vizer does not possess the titles, the professional know-how or background to make criticisms of that sort.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.