Daniel Etchells

The phrase “this doesn’t normally happen at SportAccord Convention” is one that I’ve heard on numerous occasions this week.

My first experience of the World Sport & Business Summit was an extremely eventful one, and based on comparisons made by colleagues and fellow delegates, I've steadily built up the impression that this year’s may have even been the most action-packed in its 13-year history. 

Marius Vizer’s scathing attack on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its President Thomas Bach on Monday (April 20) set the agenda for a fascinating five days, which has seen the politics of sport laid bare before us all in a way very few, if any, could have envisaged. 

Following a major backlash, which saw a flurry of Olympic Federations resigning from SportAccord, Vizer’s apology at the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) General Assembly on Wednesday (April 22), for the manner of his outburst as oppose to its content, eased tensions somewhat.

But did he learn from it? His comments yesterday about Lamine Diack, President of the International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF), the first world governing body to confirm its resignation from the union of Olympic and non-Olympic sports, would suggest not.

Although not as direct or vociferous as those made earlier in the week, his latest remarks, in which he claimed that, while he sacrifices dedication to his family for sport, Diack sacrifices sport for dedication to his family, have merely served to reignite the feud with world sports leaders.

Marius Vizer caused quite a stir at this year's SportAccord Convention
Marius Vizer caused quite a stir at this year's SportAccord Convention ©SportAccord

The general consensus among the delegates I have spoken to is that Vizer made a number of valid points during his initial tirade, but quite simply chose the wrong time, wrong place and most significantly, the wrong way to voice them.

As well as accusing Bach of trying to block projects he has tried to introduce and criticising the launch of the Olympic TV Channel as a waste of money, he also accused the IOC of lacking transparency and claimed that Agenda 2020 had brought “hardly any benefit” to sport.

It remains to be seen whether the IOC will take any of the issues raised on board, but if nothing else, it’s certainly called time on the relatively easy ride Bach has enjoyed since taking up the Presidential hotseat in September 2013.

Any complacency that may have set in has surely gone out of the window, and perhaps when Bach’s tenure ends in six to 12 years time, he'll look back on this week as a defining period.

Amid all the drama, the fallouts and the bickering, this year’s Convention could potentially act as a catalyst for change within the Olympic Movement, and bring about benefits that nobody who witnessed Vizer’s opening speech would have even dreamt of at the time.

In all walks of life it’s often necessary to take one step back in order to take two steps forward and the only way to achieve that is by accepting one’s flaws and putting the required measures in place to eradicate them. 

Given the turn of events this week, question marks have been raised over whether SportAccord Convention will survive, but if it does, it still has the capacity to act as the central hub for the development of sport.

The next three editions of the SportAccord Convention are all scheduled to be held in Russia
The next three editions of the SportAccord Convention are all scheduled to be held in Russia ©SportAccord

Sochi, Moscow and St Petersburg have already been penned in as the next three hosts from 2016 through to 2018, and despite several rumours on the contrary, organisers are adamant it will remain that way.

Having been here to witness what will go down as arguably the most memorable SportAccord Convention in history, I sense that any future editions will struggle to deliver the same level of drama and headline-grabbing stories. Even the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin was overshadowed, and that's saying something. 

But taking off my journalistic hat for the moment, and putting on my sports fan equivalent, I hope that what’s lacking in those areas can be compensated for by open and frank discussions on ways to take sport to the next level for the benefit of everyone worldwide.

That is the ultimate aim of the SportAccord Convention and starting from next year, it’s essential that this focus is relinquished to repair any damage to its reputation and put itself back on the straight and narrow.