SportAccord Convention fills leadership void

June, 25, 2015
Jun 25
12:49
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Francesco Ricci BittiJohn Berry/Getty Images


LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti has been elected the new president of a major sports industry convention.

The Italian will be in charge of the SportAccord Convention, an annual conference that draws hundreds of delegates from around the world.

The convention is organized by the umbrella body SportAccord, which represents Olympic and non-Olympic federations.

Marius Vizer resigned as head of both SportAccord and the convention after facing a revolt from federations over his attacks on the International Olympic Committee.

Ricci Bitti steps down as ITF president in September after four terms in office, but will continue as head of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations.

Swiss IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper was chosen last week as interim president of the SportAccord federations' body, pending elections later this year.

2019 bobseld and skeleton worlds to be held in Whistler

June, 2, 2015
Jun 2
1:42
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Skeleton at WhistlerDerek Leung/Getty Images


GHENT, Belgium -- The 2019 bobsled and skeleton world championships have been assigned to the 2010 Olympics track in Whistler, Canada.

Whistler edged Altenberg, Germany, by one vote -- 20-19 -- at the international federation's congress Tuesday.

St. Moritz in Switzerland was eliminated in the first round of voting.

It will mark the first worlds in Canada since the 2005 event in Calgary.

The Whistler track is where 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a crash during a practice run just hours before the start of the 2010 Games, prompting criticism that the course was too fast.

Luge is not part of the bobsled and skeleton worlds.

Next year's worlds are scheduled for Igls, Austria, with the 2017 event slated for last year's Olympic track in Sochi, Russia.

Olympic venue trash repurposed by artists

June, 2, 2015
Jun 2
12:57
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Rio water track art AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo


RIO DE JANEIRO -- Forget pricey imported oil paints and exorbitant blocks of marble. Art students at a Brazilian university have taken advantage of one material they have in endless and free supply -- trash -- to create an exhibition that aims to draw attention to the fetid state of Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay, where Olympic sailing events are to be held next year.

Around 30 students at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University used plastic bottles, tires, old flip flops, plastic helmets, scratched CDs, old tubes and plastic supermarket bags they plucked off a nearby shore to make sculptures of ocean fauna including an octopus and dolphins.

The campus, on Fundao Island in the filthy bay near the international airport, is at the epicenter of Rio's pollution problem. With poor trash and sewage services throughout the city of 12 million people, Rio's waterways are choked with raw sewage and floating garbage. A thick ring of trash surrounds much of Fundao Island, where the stench of raw sewage is often overpowering.

[+] EnlargeRio de Janeiro Federal University
AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

"We went out with the students to collect garbage for the project and I was like, `Let's not take more than we need.' Because there is so much, so much garbage," said Dalia dos Santos Cerqueira, a professor of fine arts and coordinator of the exhibit. "It was scary to see."

Fabio Drumond, an artist who worked on the exhibit, said the project showed how the bay has been transformed over the past decades into a watery landfill.

"Dolls, wood, chairs, tires, televisions -- everything that doesn't work anymore gets thrown into the water," he said. "It's being destroyed by garbage."

Rio authorities had pledged to clean up the fetid bay before the 2016 Olympics, when sailing events are slated to be held there. But with the games just over a year away, both the mayor and the governor have repeatedly said that promise won't be met. Still, Olympic authorities insist the events will be held on the bay despite objections of some sailors, who are worried about falling ill from the water or potentially catastrophic collisions with floating trash.

The art show, called "The Sea's Not Fit for Fish," runs through Thursday at the university campus.

Olympic powerbroker renounces Vizer

May, 26, 2015
May 26
11:56
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Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-SabahThananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images


LONDON -- A senior Olympic powerbroker distanced himself from Marius Vizer on Tuesday and threw his full support behind IOC President Thomas Bach in the latest backlash against the leader of umbrella body SportAccord.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, said "it is time to put personal matters aside" and stand behind Bach's reform agenda "for the benefit and harmony of the Olympic movement."

The Kuwaiti sheikh issued a statement urging unity in the wake of Vizer's attacks on the International Olympic Committee. Nearly two dozen sports have suspended or withdrawn their membership in Vizer's SportAccord, which represents Olympic and non-Olympic federations.

Peruvian organizers have also pulled out of hosting Vizer's multi-sport World Combat Games in 2017.

Sheikh Ahmad and Vizer had been allies until the SportAccord leader challenged the IOC and sought to organize his own multi-sport games.

The sheikh's public statement marked another personal blow for Vizer, who has been left increasingly on his own since delivering a speech criticizing the IOC at the opening of the SportAccord convention in Sochi last month. Vizer called the IOC system "expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent" and said Bach's "Olympic Agenda 2020" reform program was of little use to the federations.

Sheikh Ahmad said Vizer's views "do not represent the view of ANOC and other Olympic movement stakeholders and ANOC is keeping its distance from them."

"The Olympic movement is strongest when it is united," he said. "There are many different stakeholders with the Olympic family but under the leadership of the IOC we must all collaborate in order to provide the best environment for our athletes."

Sheikh Ahmad's support for Bach comes as no surprise. The Kuwaiti, who is an IOC member and head of the Asian Olympic Council, was influential in building support for Bach's successful candidacy for the IOC presidency in 2013. He is also chairman of Olympic Solidarity, the IOC program which distributes revenues to national committees and athletes.

But the sheikh's intervention resonates symbolically, as he represents 205 national Olympic bodies and is considered arguably the second-most powerful official in the Olympic world.

Sheikh Ahmad and Vizer have also skirmished over the launch of a proposed World Beach Games. The two had previously agreed to work together on the project, but Vizer announced in Sochi that SportAccord would launch the event on its own in 2017.

Sheikh Ahmad said Tuesday he is pressing ahead with his own plans for the games.

"Under the leadership of the IOC, ANOC is cooperating and coordinating with other Olympic stakeholders for the new project of the Beach Games," he said. "The project will be launched very soon and will serve our athletes and bring benefits to the wider Olympic movement."

Vizer, who also heads the International Judo Federation, sent Bach his own 20-point "reform agenda" last week as the basis for a proposed meeting with the IOC leader. Vizer's proposals include the introduction of prize money in the Olympics.

Bach kept Vizer waiting, saying he would discuss the situation with the IOC executive board next month. Francesco Riccci Bitti, head of the association of summer Olympic sports, told Vizer he does not represent the view of the federations and has shown a "lack of understanding" of the Olympic movement.

In his statement, Sheikh Ahmad also jabbed Vizer by saying he would like to know how SportAccord shares its income with international federations and how judo distributes money to the national bodies.

SportAccord's Vizer rebuffed again

May, 22, 2015
May 22
2:24
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Francesco Ricci BittiJohn Berry/Getty Images


LONDON -- Marius Vizer's latest foray into IOC politics earned a blunt rebuke from a senior Olympic leader Friday, as more sports suspended ties with his umbrella body.

The head of the association of summer Olympic sports told Vizer in a sharply-worded letter to stop speaking on behalf of the federations, saying he does not represent their views and has shown a "lack of understanding" of the Olympic movement.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, rejected Vizer's 20-point plan for changes in the IOC as out of touch and of little, if any, merit.

Vizer heads SportAccord, a body representing Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. ASOIF covers the 28 sports in the Summer Games.

Ricci Bitti, an Italian, is also president of the International Tennis Federation. A copy of his letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

"I urge you politely to refrain from speaking publicly on behalf of the international federations as they do not feel represented by SportAccord and, more importantly, do not agree with your views or the position you have taken," he wrote.

Vizer has been increasingly isolated since launching a scathing attack on the IOC and President Thomas Bach in his opening speech at the SportAccord convention last month in Sochi, Russia.

[+] EnlargeMarius Vizer
AP Photo/Dmitry LovetskyFormer SportAccord president Marius Vizer's verbal barrage at the IOC has put the umbrella body's future in doubt.

At least 20 Olympic sports have suspended or withdrawn their membership in SportAccord since then, with the international cycling and fencing federations becoming the latest to announce their departures Friday.

Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek-born billionaire who heads the fencing body, said Vizer "caused harm to international federations and has not taken their interests into account." He said SportAccord should issue an official apology to Bach.

The international swimming federation, known as FINA, confirmed for the first time that it had suspended its membership on April 22.

Vizer wrote to Bach and Ricci Bitti earlier this week seeking separate meetings with them to clear the air "for the benefit and the unity of the sports movement."

Bach kept Vizer waiting, saying he needed to discuss the invitation with the IOC executive board at its next meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month. ASOIF proposed a meeting with Vizer in early June.

On Thursday, Vizer sent Bach a 20-point "reform agenda" ahead of their proposed meeting. Among other things, he calls for the introduction of prize money in the Olympics, a 50 percent stake for federations in the new Olympic television channel and a slot for non-Olympic federations to demonstrate their sports just before and after the games in host cities.

"Your agenda, if needed at all, once again confirms the ambiguity between your roles as president of the International Judo Federation and your wish to represent other international federations as president of SportAccord," Ricci Bitti said in his letter to Vizer. "It also displays a lack of understanding of the governance and functioning of the Olympic movement."

The Italian said many of the issues had already been addressed within Bach's reform program and that Vizer had been fully involved in the consultations.

"It seems from subsequent remarks and correspondence that apparently you failed to represent your views and opinions on those occasions," Ricci Bitti said.

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