Michael Pavitt

This year's Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly was the fourth I have attended. And it has been by far the most dramatic and comedic of those.

The two-day General Assembly tends to perfectly encapsulate the dysfunction of certain parts of the Olympic Movement which leave you simultaneously sighing and laughing.

Among the highlights of this year was the quote that "we cannot elect someone who is refusing to be elected" in reference to the debate surrounding whether Sheikh Ahmad could be re-elected as ANOC President.

A delegate taking the floor prior to a vote, which delayed the vote, only for his statement to call for the vote to happen, takes a close second place.

Those in Olympic circles tend to get a bit annoyed when the negatives of the Movement dominate coverage, asserting that the positives that the five rings achieve are largely glazed over.

But the ANOC General Assembly this week was largely the same, with problems dominating the early stages and the good news projects being sped through towards the end.

The Sheikh Ahmad debate, largely, was responsible for the agenda overrunning. This left presenters of the latter items on the agenda to vow that they would "be quick" in delivering their reports to the Assembly.

Generally, these latter reports consist of things like Olympic Solidarity, which other than Mr Cheerful himself Pere Miro, are delivered almost apologetically to delegates as they have been sat down for too long.

Initiatives like giving 1,339 Olympic scholarships out to athletes to help them on their path to Tokyo 2020, as well as efforts to support 553 coaches at technical courses and a giving a further 332 scholarships can get rather overlooked. Did anyone honestly notice when Olympic Solidarity announced they had agreed to cover the participation costs of NOCs for Buenos Aires 2018 and Lausanne 2020?

The ANOC General Assembly's focus was on Sheikh Ahmad, but several interesting topics emerged ©Getty Images
The ANOC General Assembly's focus was on Sheikh Ahmad, but several interesting topics emerged ©Getty Images

Given that International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has repeatedly used the "we redistribute 90 per cent of our income" line to deflect from any criticism of the organisation's spending priorities, it was refreshing to hear some of the NOCs explaining how the funding has helped their athletes and country.

The delays caused by the uncertainty over the Sheikh Ahmad situation and Bach's speech may have also contributed to none of the NOCs asking questions in the miscellaneous section at the end, given delegates probably had a desire to race away from the room after two long days.

I have therefore decided to offer some miscellaneous items which might have been missed.

The first edition of the ANOC World Beach Games in San Diego is drawing ever nearer, with the concept having been approved at the General Assembly back in 2015.

The concept, long-term, could potentially be a good one. San Diego will have the difficulty of being the first edition, which I think most people expect to be rather experimental as the format gets ironed out moving forwards.

The Games taking place over a relatively short period of five days will be intriguing. While it probably helps out the hosts and keeps costs down, you wonder whether, just as the new event might start to grab some attention next year, the curtain may swiftly fall. The music and entertainment aspect is very current in the way sporting events are seeking to attract a younger audience.

ANOC have asserted that the Games will be a "pinnacle for global excellence", with hopes top athletes in the world will compete across the 15 sports. This will only become clear at the Games, but the development of the World Urban Games surely makes this more awkward.

San Diego 2019 presented updates ahead of the inaugural World Beach Games next year ©ANOC
San Diego 2019 presented updates ahead of the inaugural World Beach Games next year ©ANOC

Organisers state there are six beach disciplines, six water disciplines and five action disciplines at the World Beach Games. I wrote after the ANOC General Assembly last year that some of these sports seemed strange inclusions, particularly the action ones. The "action sports" such as 3x3 basketball, BMX Freestyle, sports climbing bouldering and skateboard park were also included on the World Urban Games programme when it was announced in October.

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) event is set to take place in Los Angeles next September. Athletes in these sports could in theory become a world champion twice in the space of a month. The closeness of the events could surely cause problems.

It was noticeable that ANOC felt the need to ask for the "continuing support from the IOC in the discussions with GAISF regarding the Urban Games proposed to be held in Los Angeles in 2019".

Given the World Urban Games was largely seen as the brainchild of Patrick Baumann, one wonders whether GAISF will be able to pull off their event to a high level, following his death.

The call for continuing support from the IOC was made in ANOC's resolutions from their General Assembly. Several of them appeared to have not actually been discussed over the two days, yet they were present on the document.

For instance, ANOC's "full support" of the IOC position not to introduce prize money at the Olympic Games, despite the fact one of the NOCs made a specific question for it. Similarly, I do not remember there being any discussion on rule 40, yet ANOC stated they were firmly behind it.

The call for all NOCs and Continental Associations to join the International Testing Agency (ITA) I also do not recall being discussed. The ITA remains a curious body. It was barely mentioned in the recent conflict between the World Anti-Doping Agency and "the reformers", while until recently only crisis-hit bodies made the step (where told/forced) to join up.

Despite ANOC's calls for them to join, I am not sure many NOCs would be sure what they were joining.

Again, it will be an interesting development to keep an eye on in the future, as the ITA's position in the anti-doping world becomes clearer.

A permanent CAS Anti-Doping Division will be in operation from January 1 ©Getty Images
A permanent CAS Anti-Doping Division will be in operation from January 1 ©Getty Images

ANOC's "full support" to the IOC in ensuring that all athletes can compete in all International competitions is potentially a position the body can work on. Given their direct contact with the NOCs, you imagine ANOC could dedicate some significant time to working with NOCs from countries who prevent athletes from competing due to diplomatic disputes - largely to do with Kosovo - to help persuade their Governments to make exceptions.

Part of these efforts should surely be to press upon politicians about how their own athletes and spectators would suffer should events be stripped as a result of their diplomatic disputes.

A final point of interest from the General Assembly came from the unusually quiet John Coates, with the Australian presenting on the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He confirmed that from January 1 an Anti-Doping Division of CAS would be in operation. 

This largely extended on comments he made at the IOC Session about first instance sole arbitrator or three person panels being available for cases. Confirmation of a January start date adds another structure to the anti-doping landscape for next year.

Potentially over Christmas we could also have the reasoned decisions in the Russian cases from Sochi 2014, with Coates stating that early next week all of the verdicts should have been issued.

Given that much of the past week in the Olympic world was dominated by Sheikh Ahmad and the International Boxing Association, the ANOC General Assembly did succeed in providing a few other topics to chew over.