Week 82 (25 April - 1 May 2015)
In the last 10 days, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), has further enhanced his reputation as the consensus-building peacemaker in global sports politics.
On Thursday, Sheikh Ahmad, an IOC member, was elected unopposed to the FIFA Executive Committee at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Manama, taking the number of IOC representatives on FIFA’s ExCo to four. Whilst having an extra IOC member at FIFA’s table is not a guarantee of greater alignment between the two organisations, it’s safe to say that having Sheikh Ahmad straddling both organisations will help significantly. The man sometimes wrongly referred to as a kingmaker is steadily shifting people’s perceptions to be regarded as a peacemaker.
The most recent case in point occurred seven days earlier during SportAccord Convention in Sochi when Sheikh Ahmad demonstrated his commitment to seeking peaceful resolution of major issues and maintaining harmony within the Olympic Movement.
Tensions arose at the start of the week with SportAccord President Marius Vizer accusing the IOC of interfering with the autonomy of sports organisations and criticising Olympic Agenda 2020. Many International Federations (IFs) expressed their dissatisfaction at Vizer’s words with IOC President Bach claiming that Vizer’s opinion was not representative of the majority. Such was the strength of feeling, three IFs, including the IAAF and World Archery, decided to suspend their SportAccord membership.
But after the discord came a degree of accord, with Sheikh Ahmad leading the way.
Following Vizer’s speech, Sheikh Ahmad stated his opposing views to the SportAccord President and publicly underlined his support for President Bach and the IOC, stressing ANOC’s “full commitment to Olympic Agenda 2020 and its implementation”.
Yet he made it clear that he believed collaboration with all Olympic Movement stakeholders is the way forward. Despite the volatile environment, Sheikh Ahmad decided to stay in Sochi for the duration of the Convention. This gave a sense of rapprochement in a fractured political environment. He even presented the final award at the SportAccord Euronews Awards, serving as a welcome reminder of what the Olympic Movement is really all about: sport and those who play it.
His warm and conciliatory words during the Sport Accord Convention farewell speeches at the Radisson Blu hotel on the final night, helped to defuse further the palpable tension.
Sheikh Ahmad’s leadership style is fundamentally about promoting unity. FIFA may be the latest direct beneficiaries of his political abilities, but the whole sports world is benefitting from his unique approach.