Patrick Hickey

Week 42 (5 - 11 July 2014)

The international news agenda for this week's IOC Executive Board meeting has been dominated by reports of Olympic cycles past, present and future. It was ever thus.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games, whether the summer, winter or youth editions, are the IOC's most prized assets and command the most column inches and Twitter characters of all Olympic-related news.

Yet despite the good news this week regarding the success of Sochi 2014 and the progress of Rio 2016, and the "hard" news of the bidding race for the 2022 Winter Games, the news which may have made the wider Olympic Movement sit up the most came from a different source: the IOC's reports and statements on the positive results being achieved in preserving the autonomy of sports bodies.

The IOC Delegate Member for Autonomy is Patrick Hickey, an IOC member of nearly 20 years standing (and on the Executive Board for the past two); he is also President of the European Olympic Committees and Vice-President of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

In April, he started his new role as the IOC's autonomy tsar, something he described at the time as "a great challenge", citing the fact that "there are crises breaking out in NOCs, International Federations, National Federations and it's going to get worse."

But Hickey has not been slow in sorting out the problems which have presented themselves.

Hickey has recently overseen key measures including negotiating for the Government of Pakistan to recognise the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) led by Syed Arif Hasan, and getting the Government of the Gambia to meet with the Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOC) and the IOC to discuss the GNOC's autonomy from government. And it's not just governments who have been challenged. The Tunisian Baseball Softball Federation is currently serving a six-month suspension from the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) after the IOC intervened following the removal of the Israeli flag and Federation name plate at the WBSC's Congress in Tunisia.

These results have been achieved with Hickey's involvement, and the 69-year-old is happy with his first few months in his new role. Speaking exclusively to JTA, he said:

"I hope that the recent successful negotiations which the IOC has conducted with countries such as the Gambia and Pakistan and with IFs such as the World Baseball Softball Confederation, show that we are striking the right balance between diplomacy and protecting the autonomy of sports bodies.

"I believe that this work is important in safeguarding the health of the Olympic Movement and I look forward to working with my colleagues and making further improvements in this area."

For now though, the work of Hickey and his colleagues at the IOC has sent a clear message: the IOC will actively step in to defend its constituent organisations and preserve their autonomy against anyone who tries to threaten them.

It may not be a narrative which has the international media breaking down the door, but it is a vital and reassuring message for the wider Olympic Movement.

Photo: Patrick Hickey