KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 (Reuters) - With world soccer’s governing body FIFA embroiled in a corruption scandal, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent a sobering reminder to global sports leaders on Thursday about their responsibilities.
In a clear reference to the FIFA scandal, IOC President Thomas Bach devoted part of his opening speech at the 128th IOC Congress in Kuala Lumpur to the importance of transparency and credibility.
“These are difficult times in sport, as recent events in other sport organisations have all too clearly shown,” Bach told the delegates.
”We live in a world that takes less for granted. People today demand more transparency and want to see concrete steps and results on how we are living up to our values and our responsibility.
“We need to demonstrate that we are indeed walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”
FIFA was thrown into turmoil earlier this year when more than a dozen soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted by the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Although FIFA President Sepp Blatter has not been accused of any wrongdoing, his stewardship has been heavily scrutinised and he has since announced he is standing down as boss of the world’s most popular game.
The IOC was forced to confront its own corruption scandal in 1998 when allegations emerged that some members had accepted bribes in return for voting for Salt Lake City to be awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Ten members were either expelled or left the organisation and the IOC later introduced a range of strict reforms over the bidding process and transparency in the organisation.
“We know from our own history how long it takes to rebuild credibility and that implementing best practices with regards to good governance and transparency cannot happen overnight,” Bach told the Congress.
“The IOC has already undertaken major efforts 15 years ago to strengthen good governance and transparency. Putting these changes like term limits, age limit and others in place has not been an easy process. But today we see very clearly just how vital these reforms have been for our organisation.”
Blatter is also an IOC member but is not attending the 128th Congress in Malaysia, where delegates will decide the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The two candidates are Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Blatter also missed the final of the women’s World Cup in Canada and the Under 20s World Cup in New Zealand.
He was automatically elected to the IOC in 1999 but will lose his position next year when he turns 80, as part of Bach’s Olympic 2020 Agenda, in which the new IOC president introduced age limits for members.
Blatter will be among the first IOC members to lose their spots because of the new rules.
Bach has also announced that the IOC will publish all its financial details, showing where all its revenues come from and are distributed and will separate its audit and finance commissions and appoint a chief ethics officer.
“Sport does not operate in isolation from the rest of society. We are living in the middle of a modern and diverse society that holds us accountable for what we do,” he said.
“We have opened our doors and windows. We let air and light in through dialogue.” (Reporting by Julian Linden; editing by Toby Davis)