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Libya situation adds to 2012 Olympic dilemmas

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David Bond | 10:01 UK time, Wednesday, 15 June 2011

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.

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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 FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in Tripoli last weekend  Photo: Reuters

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    What would happen if LOCOG turned around and said no to the IOC with regard to certain individuals attending the Olympics. You said in the article that the home office could reject individuals on security ground, but what about other grounds? I agree that Libya should be allowed to compete in the games however, I do not believe Libyan officials should be allowed to attend if they have any connection with the regime in power. Secondly, what is the deal with separate lanes for olympic traffic, it was part of our bid that improvements would be made to the transport infrastructure within London as a whole. How are they going to police this??

  • Comment number 2.

    International sport and politics have been linked forever. Berlin 36, Munich 72, the ban on South African participation in sport... To suggest otherwise is disingenuous. To allow Mugabe into Britain under the cover of a celebrated sporting event is disgusting.

  • Comment number 3.

    For goodness sake man, you're supposed to be a Sports Editor! How can you justify questioning the use of public money on the premier world multi-sport event? Leaving aside that it's sport, stupid, the money and publicity it will bring to this country will be an enormous boost in a time of depressing cuts.

    Stop looking for easy targets with your awful brand of negative journalism.

  • Comment number 4.

    If the IOC want freedom from political interference, then why will it automatically be inviting people like Robert Mugabe to London?

    I believe he is a "politician" rather than an athlete, and so I don't see how Zimbabwe's participation in the games requires him to be there.

  • Comment number 5.

    While the IOC preaches political impartiality on one hand it insists on a huge gravy train for its representatives. An to hell with the public who fund the games.

    The insistence that digniteries have preferential lanes from the expensive and trendy west end hotels to east london (by passing the docklands hotels) is ridiculous and also contradicts the supposed green agenda for these games.

  • Comment number 6.

    You know what you sign up for. Its not a secret. No one forces you to apply for the Olympics. On the other hand there does need to be some greater measure of accountability by the Olympic Committee than appears to be the case at present when they effectively are managing such vast sums of money. The same applies (doubly so) to FIFA. These people seem to think they are beyond ethics, morals and taxation.

  • Comment number 7.

    I sincerely hope we will NOT be letting Mr Mugabe anywhere near our country!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I hate it when money is mentioned as a reason not to host the games. Money will not bring you happyness but seeing Kenny, Pendleton, Ennis and Idowu win Olympic gold certainly will!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Any person who thinks the "money and publicity" that could be generated is worth it is extremely short sighted, maybe in years to come when the full extent of the cost of the games is revealed we will actually be able to calculate if there was any economical benefit, I highly doubt there will be. The obvious winners will be the sponsors and the industries (such as retail, hotels etc) but it is not as if any of those companies after the games will say we have had a good few months lets give our workers a wage rise.

    The reality will be: the sponsors will cash in, a limited amount of ordinary people will actually get to see the games except on television, the transport systems will be a disaster and the corporates will be lauding it up and whether or not the games are a success or not remains to be seen. Sceptical to say the least.

  • Comment number 10.

    In the UK we have a right to protest and if Mugabe does show up, I'm sure the British public will give him the sort of 'welcome' you might expect for a tyrant.

  • Comment number 11.


    I can just see the police plans for "kettling". I wonder if they'll have separate "kettling" areas for any media, IOC reps or athletes wishing to take part?

  • Comment number 12.

    The IOC have the biggest show in town, is it any surprise that they exploit this?

  • Comment number 13.

    I thought we now only recognised the rebels in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya. Why were the tickets not issued to them instead ?

  • Comment number 14.

    The Olympics ... didn't it used to be a good thing ?

    Let alone that junk food is a core sponsor and kids are encouraged to spend all their money on shiny trainers, and Mugabe is coming to dinner ... even the athletes are in on the demise, I am sure right now they are all hard in training working through their EPO, human growth hormone and whatever new drugs they've got in preparation.

    Maybe I'll go for a run tonight. At least that's worth something.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to say this is one of the most poor pieces of journalism I think I have ever read. BBC please start getting your act together on this as these articles are, quite literally, degrading in quality by the month.

  • Comment number 16.

    I would be writing to my MP if I even thought Mugabe and his cronies were to be attending the Olympics - and if possible I'd be bashing down Northumbria Police's door asking for an arrest warrent to be issued for his offences against the people of Zimbabwae.
    It's great to see the IOC and FIFA demand that Governments don't interfere in their organisations like an FA or national IOC team YET demand to be treat like a Government itself.

  • Comment number 17.

    i personally feel that Zimbabwe and other countries with appalling human rights records should be banned. i do have some sympathy for the athletes but a message should be sent out that that behaviour is unacceptable. the sports ban in south africa really damaged national pride and undoubably put pressure on an end to apartheid.

  • Comment number 18.

    More hypocrisy as usual. The same BBC sports journalists who called for a sporting boycott of Zimbabwe were strangely silent over Bahrain recently where they said sports and politics DON'T mix. The western funded Zimbabwe opposition leader is in Zimbabwe free,where are the Bahraini opposition leaders?
    Did you see last nights tv programme on Sri Lankas killing fields ? Why aren't we advocating a sporting boycott of them until the war crimes have been investigated?
    If we don't like a country we call for a boycott,if we like them or do business with them we say sport and politics are separate. What a laugh !

  • Comment number 19.

    Is it possible to allow Mugabe to visit and seat him in the super-executive, front front front FRONT row for the javelin finals?

    Just checking.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's WE who are bombing Libya, not the other way around. What harm has Libya done to us, for us to refuse Gaddafi entry on security grounds? (Moral grounds are another matter. And till a couple of months back, these moral grounds did not seem to matter.)

    As for the other inconveniences - we made tall promises in order to get the Games (anyone remember the Olympic stadium legacy fiasco?). We can't start whinging when it's time to pay the bills.

  • Comment number 21.

    The olympics has become a farce in recent years. The legacy so far has been white elephants all over the place: Atlanta, Greece, Australia and know the U.K. It used to be good until money got involved

  • Comment number 22.

    David you raised so many valid questions -
    1. It is too expensive. Well dial Qatar they are ready to host it....haha FIFA knew you will whine once you get the World Cup.
    2. Politics : How about countries bombing other without UN resolution... read four word IRAQ. Gosh as UK is out who will open the London Olympics.
    3. Transport disruption : London can shift the World Cup to city more willing to tolerate it. Paris is ready.
    4. Public Money and hard times : FIFA World Cup 2018 .... from where the money would have come for it.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think football should be kept seperate from Sport as rule, I wasn't around back in 66 but I believe that North Korea made quite an impression at the WC when they beat Italy at Goodison, and nobody took into account the fact that their country was internationally isolated, only the football mattered. Thats how it should be. i'm disgusted by a lot of things with these big overbloated sporting associations i.e. IOC & FIFA, but I fully support their attempts to keep governments and their often short term opportunist agendas out of the game. I do think accountability and transparency is however doable and neccessary for such organisations to function

  • Comment number 24.

    Why not let them all come to the UK and then arrest as they leave the country and fly them straight to the Hague for War crimes

  • Comment number 25.

    Plus, the bidding process is so complicated inclucing the requirements to hold the game, I think David Bond is providing an excellent service is highlighting these issues. eep up with the good work and don't listen to those who complain about your work

  • Comment number 26.

    They are not the GB Olympic Games, they are Olympic Games being held in GB.

    75% of tickets being sold here is for me a fair representation,howthey are distributed is debatable.

    Big business whether you like it of not is the first item on the agenda for any sport nowadays, in fact why we still use the word sport is a bit perplexing but thats a bye the bye,the sad fact is these businesses are making a significant contribution to the total cost, and he who pays the piper ?

    Sport and politics will always mix, tell me how many politicians look at good performances from our athletes, or our Rugby players, or our cricketers (footballers ? er no) and how often do you see the politicians trying to barge in on the good news, reception at no10? Innocous, yes but its still politics and sport mixing.

  • Comment number 27.

    I will be very surprised if the games take place at all

  • Comment number 28.

    The Olympics has become a farce in recent years. The legacy has been several white elephants in Atalanta, Athens, Sydney, Beijing and soon to be London. Tax payers money is usually wasted in pursuit of coperate greed.

  • Comment number 29.

    sagat4 is right. Olympic Games are a big farce now !

  • Comment number 30.

    @28. Sagat, having lived in Sydney for two years now, I'd be interested to know what these white elephants are? Regarding the main Olympic site at Homebush, a large area of prime land in the middle of the city has been decontaminated. This was not commercially viable, hence the public expenditure. Thousands of new homes have now been created with good public transport accessibility. The new parklands are packed out most weekends and the stadium and pool are heavily used week by week. The Olympic Park has also stimulated major commercial investment at Rhodes and helped regenerate the deprived suburb of Auburn.

    I don't deny there have been facilities sitting idle in Athens but I'd suggest that the London model is much closer to that of Sydney.

  • Comment number 31.

    I was very fortunate to get the tickets I applied for. I applied for four tickets and got them. I knew the rules and my chances of getting them. We all knew the rules when we applied and accepted them. I have no complaints about the system even if I didn't receive the tickets with the exception that the limit of sessions/events should have been tighter.

    This would have meant a fairer distribution of tickets to all. The format should have been; preferred event, then you would get a further two options as to where you could apply for an event. If you were successful in any event it meant that the rest of the application would not be looked upon. This would mean that everyone would have received a far better chance of attending an event of their choice.

    Finally this would also have ensured that people couldn't pay more than they could afford.

  • Comment number 32.

    is there a form of cencorship at work on the bloggs pages?


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