RIO DE JANEIRO — At anxious times such as these, I, as a longtime loyal supporter of the International Olympic Committee, ask myself a crucial question: What would Lord Killanin do?
These are fraught days for the Olympic movement. The Russian doping crisis is causing chaos, and IOC members are clawing at each other like rare albino kittens. It has been absolute trial for all of us in the Olympic family. It’s given us such the mauvais quart d’heure that I’ve hardly been able to keep the quenelles down.
No one knows how many Russians will be approved to compete, and IOC President Thomas Bach says it’s not the IOC’s fault and blames the World Anti-Doping Agency. This conveniently overlooks the fact that WADA is run by the IOC’s own vice president, Craig Reedie, who called for a blanket ban of the Russians, even though he knew it would make Vlady furious. The rest of the IOC is caught in between this clash of the titans: Reedie was a terror at badminton and Bach at the foil, and you don’t want to get in the middle of that. I can certainly see both sides.
I must ask Willi and Claudia what they think.
It’s been a difficult situation not easily resolved. I for one think a sub rosa meeting of the ex parte-executive panel might have been called for. But there was some doubt that we could get everyone out of their riding breeches in time.
The only thing anyone can agree upon is that any shortcomings can be cured with a cash infusion. Which I heartily agree is always the soundest IOC policy. Asked how WADA might do better, Reedie smartly replied, “As far as money goes, it’s hard to say how much would be enough.”
The Princess says the main thing is to avoid any further public embarrassment by the Russians, who haven’t played fair, but as the Baron says, “When do they ever?” The sheik and the grand duke quite agree, especially after Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on Defense, said, “WADA looks like a bunch of swindlers playing cards.”
Even some IOC members have made unfortunate public comments, such as Argentinian IOC member Gerardo Werthein, who accused WADA of being “more interested in self-promotion and publicity.” That wasn’t fair play either, but Reedie parried it expertly. He replied that he found the remark “personally offensive” and received an assurance that Werthein “wasn’t speaking about me.” Which should come as a relief to all.
Since then, the IOC and WADA have been more civil, and in the past day they seem to have found a mutual strategy. I listened in on some of their back-channel conversations at the Windsor Hotel.
Bach: Craigie, old boy, what should we do about this Russia business?
Reedie: Tight spot for me, Tommy.
Bach: Yes, I know, but Vladimir is getting irked. Pass the port.
Reedie: The vintage or the crusted? One of the few good things about this country.
Bach: Vintage. Now look. Someone’s got to take the hit, sport, and it’s not going to be me.
Reedie: I realize that, but it’s hardly going to be me either. I say, the room service here is not Lausanne, is it? Do you think they can do a perigueux sauce in a Brazil hotel? Or shouldn’t I risk it?
Bach: Better try the roe instead. Has the Princess landed yet? Or is she still diving in Roatán?
Reedie: I thought it was Cocos Island. Now look. How about we call all of this “a learning opportunity?” Sort of the way we handled the mass arrests and torture in Beijing?
Bach: That might work. We say, “We wish we could do more, but ‘the arrow’s left the bow.’ We pledge to study the issue in future to ensure clean sport.” That sort of thing.
Reedie: Exactly. Potatoes rosti?
Bach: No thank you.
Reedie: WADA will take some responsibility. We can blame “protocols.” We acknowledge flaws in the system and are determined to remedy them.
Bach: Precisely. And the IOC will let some of Vlady’s kids in on the grounds that we don’t want to unfairly victimize any more innocents. We’ll say we refuse to make them collateral damage and we reject the cynical, punitive approach. Try this: “The basis of the Olympic charter is human rights, and the IOC refuses to trample on the presumption of innocence at the official level.”
Reedie: Oh, that’s super. But will Vlady go for it?
Bach: I’ll have a coffee with him. He’ll get over it by the time the hockey starts in Pyeongchang.
Reedie: Excellent approach. More port?
Bach: Thank you. I may change my mind and have the turbot.
Reedie: I suppose it’s no use asking for Balmoral venison here.
Bach: What events are you going to?
Reedie: You think I’m leaving this hotel? Have you seen what it’s like out there?