SportAccord's Vizer rebuffed again

May, 22, 2015
May 22

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 Lovetsky

At least 20 Olympic sports have suspended or withdrawn their membership in SportAccord since then, with the international cycling and fencing federations becoming the latest to announce their departures Friday.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

May, 22, 2015
May 22

Colosseum Tiziana Fabi/Getty Image

ROME -- Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino proposed Friday that medal ceremonies be held at the Colosseum if the Italian capital wins the bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

Marino was meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach and bid committee officials, as well as Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Giovanni Malago, president of Italy's national Olympic committee.

"I have a dream: if we manage to have the Olympics in Rome, I would like the medal ceremonies to take place at the Colosseum," Marino said. "We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times."

Bach liked the idea, but joked "as long as the lions don't then arrive."

The bid committee is also looking into the possibility of having the finals of various sports at other historic locations, including the Circus Maximus.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced Rome's cost-conscious Olympic bid in December, two years after Italy scrapped plans to bid for the 2020 Games because of financial concerns.

Bach believes Rome now has a good chance of bringing the games back to the Italian capital for the first time since 1960 -- the former fencer's first Olympics.

"Italy's candidacy is a strong one because of its history, that of the country and its sporting one," Bach said. "I wish you good luck with the bid, congratulations on your good work, continue like this.

"I see that there is a lot of unity behind Rome's bid. From the president Mattarella to CONI to the mayor Marino. This is very important and gives strength to the Italian project."

The IOC will select the host city in 2017.

Hamburg, Germany, and Boston are the only declared candidates. Paris and Budapest, Hungary, are expected to enter the race soon.

"In its candidacy, Roma is the only one to bring together art and culture, sporting tradition, innovation and technology," said bid leader and former Ferrari president Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo. "That is one of our strong points, together with a powerful team spirit.

"Bach himself made us understand that occasions have been lost in the past because of a lack of unity in the world of sport and the country in general. It's a great opportunity for Italy, something we mustn't lose."

John Coates wins re-election to sports arbitration council

May, 22, 2015
May 22

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Australian Olympic official John Coates has been re-elected president of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport.

Coates, a Sydney-based lawyer, will serve a second term from 2015-18. He became the third ICAS president in 2010, after Senegal's Judge Keba Mbaye from 1994-2007 and Italy's Mino Auletta from 2007-10.

Coates is president of the Australian Olympic Committee and a vice president of the International Olympic Committee.

Elected as ICAS vice presidents were Michael Lenard of the United States and Tjasa Andree-Prosenc of Slovenia.

ICAS is composed of 20 international lawyers. It manages the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest appeals body in international sports, and sets up special CAS panels at the Olympics and other major events.

Olympic rings ceremony marks nearing games

May, 22, 2015
May 22

RingsMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

RIO DE JANEIRO -- This is a sure sign the 2016 Olympics are getting close.

Officials of next year's games in Rio de Janeiro stood by Wednesday evening as fireworks exploded above a huge version of the symbolic five Olympic rings.

These rings were displayed in the northeastern city of Newcastle, England, during the 2012 games in London.

The rings were installed in Madureira Park in northern Rio, far from the heart of the Olympics in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca. The large city park will be a viewing center during the games with free broadcasts on giant television screens.

Rio's city hall says other live viewing sites are planned in Rio's port area with another in the western zone of the city.

The Rio Olympic Games open Aug. 5, 2016.

Stabbing near Olympic venue highlights security concerns for Rio

May, 21, 2015
May 21

Rio BalloonYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Mayor Eduardo Paes said Wednesday he was confident in security arrangements for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a day after a cyclist was stabbed to death near the main venue for rowing and canoeing at South America's first games.

The cyclist was identified by police as 55-year-old Jaime Gold, who was stabbed in the early evening Tuesday while cycling near the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the most upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.

"This is not an issue about the Olympics," Paes said. "It's an issue about us Cariocas (Rio residents) and the way we conduct our lives."

Paes spoke at Rio's Olympic headquarters after meeting with top members of the International Olympic Committee, who began two days of meetings to examine the city's readiness to host South America's first games.

Paes described crime as a social problem in Rio, hoping to distance it from Olympic preparations.

The city was criticized a year ago by a top IOC member who said Rio's preparations were the "worst" in recent history. Organizers seem to have those preparations back on track, but still face very tight deadlines and rising costs to be ready for the opening on Aug. 5, 2016.

According to recent statistics, the state of Rio de Janeiro, which includes the city of Rio, saw a drop in murders in 2012. But homicides began rising again, jumping 21 percent to 4,939 people killed in 2014.

"Security is an issue for our everyday life," Paes said. "We had something yesterday at (the lagoon), and I mean we have more than we should."

Paes highlighted last year's World Cup, in which at least 150,000 soldiers and police were on duty across the country, as an example of Brazil and Rio's success in organizing large events and keeping the peace.

"Rio has a great experience of hosting big events," Paes said.

IOC officials also began their meetings as a brief labor strike has prevented work at some Olympic venues and also infrastructure projects being built for the Olympics. A labor judge is to rule this week if the strike can continue or must end.

"It's a democratic country," Paes said. "It's a right of the laborers, the people that work, to discuss their salaries with their bosses. I mean this is a regular discussion. I don't see it as a big issue and it's not delaying anything."

IOC officials in Rio for the scheduled "Project Review" included Nawal El Moutawakel, the head of the inspection team that periodically visits the city, and Christophe Dubi, Olympic Games Executive Director.

They did not make themselves available for comment.

Leonardo Espindola, the No. 2-ranking official in the Rio state government, said he was confident the severely polluted Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing, would be ready for a test event in August.

Last month, an official of sailing's world governing body threatened to move all sailing events out of the bay to open water in the Atlantic. Rio officials had promised to clean the bay in their Olympic bid in 2009, but now acknowledge they will resort to stop-gap measures in the 147-square-mile body of water.

"The races will be in Guanabara Bay," Espindola said. "There is no chance to change the field of play. The sailing will take place in Guanabara Bay."

Espindola said 10 so-called eco-boats, used to collect floating garbage, will be back in the water "one or two months" before the August test event. He said five boats might also be added to the fleet.

He said 11 so-called eco-barriers, to block garbage from flowing into the noxious waters, would also be in place.

"The big problem for us is the floating garbage," he said.

Guanabara Bay and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon are both beautiful venues with filthy water and are among Olympic organizers' biggest problems.

Rio lacks basic sanitation, a decades-old problem for the poor in hilltop slums, and also for many well-off residents who live in suburban apartments that flush their sewage untreated into the sea.

Matt Smith, who heads the World Rowing Federation, was asked earlier this month by The Associated Press if he would swim in the rowing venue.

Smith replied: "I don't think I would go swimming in that lagoon."

Rio officials also confirmed Wednesday that water polo will be moved from a central venue near the Maracana stadium to one of two swimming venues at the Olympic Park, the heart of the games in western Rio. Officials said it could also wind up in Deodoro, the second largest cluster of venue.


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