Libya situation adds to 2012 Olympic dilemmas
One of the issues raised by today's Daily Telegraph story about Colonel Gadaffi's son and Libya's right to Olympic tickets is the level of control a host country and organising committee have over the way a Games is run.
It will shock and surprise many people - particularly those already feeling sore about the way 2012 tickets have been distributed - that it is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which takes the lead on who gets tickets and who gets accredited.
That has always been a privilege fiercely guarded by the IOC and I remember an almighty stink before the Sydney Games in 2000 over whether two IOC accredited officials - Carl Ching Men-Ky and Gafur Rakhimov - would be allowed to enter Australia.
The Australian government banned both men on security grounds but the IOC's former president Juan Antonio Samaranch wrote to the country's PM John Howard demanding an explanation. The IOC was angry at this affront to the Olympic family's freedom from political interference.
The last decade - and the increased security threat to the Games after 9/11 - has changed attitudes at the IOC. It knows it is no longer realistic to expect the Olympics to exist in a bubble and to demand a country hands over the keys for a couple of weeks.
What now happens on Olympic immigration is this. Each member country of the IOC submits a list of people - officials, coaches and athletes - which it wishes to be accredited. The IOC then pass that list to the Home Office which can block any individuals from entering the country on security grounds.
The IOC says very clearly that on security issues the British government takes precedence. And one London 2012 official told me on Wednesday morning that it was simply a "myth" that the IOC turned up and took over the running of a country for a fortnight.
Now it must be stated that both Muhammad al-Gaddafi and his father are subject to international travel bans and so the story is largely academic. But the fact that both men - one as head of state and the other as head of the Libyan Olympic Committee - might have been invited by the IOC at a time when Britain is bombing Libya will still cause considerable anger and mystification.
The IOC - determined to avoid being drawn into international diplomatic conflicts - have not thrown Libya out, arguing they have not received any complaint about their continued participation in the movement.
But even if Britain will not have to host the Gaddafi family next year there will be other controversial heads of state and politicians - Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is the most obvious example - who will be automatically extended invitations to come to London.
In one sense it is absolutely right that sport should be set apart from such matters. As with Zimbabwe and cricket in recent times, is it correct that a nation's sportsmen and women be prevented from playing their sport at the highest level simply because the politicians who run their countries are international pariahs?
Plus, how can the IOC preach the Games is a symbol of global peace if it then takes sides in whatever conflict happens to affect its next host?
But the Gaddafi story highlights how host cities do sign away - with full agreement of the government of the day - some key rights in the rush to host the Olympics.
Muhammad Gaddafi, right, plays chess with World Chess Feferation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in Tripoli last weekend Photo: Reuters
Putting the Libyan Olympic Committee's entitlement to one side for a minute (their ticket allocation is measured in hundreds not thousands), is it fair to a host nation shelling out billions of pounds in tax that 12 per cent of those tickets are then sold to members of each of the 200 or so Olympic committees around the world?
Is it right that the IOC should insist on dedicated lanes for athletes, officials and, yes the media, even though it will cause major transport disruption to Londoners who may not give a stuff about the Games?
Accepting the emphasis placed by London 2012 on legacy, is it an appropriate use of public money at a time of extreme economic hardship to spend so much on stadiums and facilities for a two week sporting festival?
And is it fair that corporate sponsors of the IOC exert such powers over the way ordinary people experience the Olympics? The recent controversy over the need to have a visa card to buy Olympic tickets is a good example of this. There will be many more as the Games get closer and sponsors look to maximise the vast sums they plough into the IOC.
London 2012 are anxious to stress the IOC are their partners and that the Government and Mayor of London knew exactly what they were signing up to when the bid was won back in 2005. That won't stop some of the implications of the hosting agreement coming as a surprise to the British public on whose behalf the contract was ultimately signed.