Not so wonderful Copenhagen for Olympic press

From Philip Barker in Copenhagen
The losing bid cities weren’t the only ones to leave Copenhagen in a hurry after the IOC’s vote for the 2016 host city on Friday. So did most of the journalists who had besieged the Bella Conference Centre when Barack Obama tried in vain to sway the vote towards Chicago.

That occasion at least coined the memorable phrase “the audacity of nope”. The recriminations for Rio, the United States and the Olympics have concentrated the minds of most who are left in the Danish capital.

The XIII IOC Congress opened before a much depleted press corps. The IOC stages a Congress once in each decade (the last one was in 1994). It was at the 1981 meeting in Baden Baden that Seb Coe made his first impact on sports politics, speaking for the newly formed IOC Athletes’ Commission.

Here, now Lord Coe and the chairman of London 2012’s organising committee, went one step further, calling for a Youth Commission to be established to try to make sure that youngsters don’t lose interest in the Olympics.

“We have to be seen to be standing for the things that matter to young people,” he said. “My children, your children, define these values very differently. It is probably not a job for you or I.”

Coe would not be drawn on who should be on the Youth Commission, but IOC member Sir Craig Reedie was not so reticent. “We should invite four very bright young people to come on to it. Use them for 18 months, then get another four,” he said.

The IOC’s oldest active member is former FIFA president Joao Havelange, looking supremely fit for a 93-year-old. But as an organisation, the IOC has been often criticised as a unit because its membership is too old.

In recent years, though, recent Olympians such as Alexander Popov and Sergei Bubka have brought the average age of the IOC membership down by a decade or so, and the introduction of new disciplines including beach volleyball, BMX and snowboarding suggest a willingness at least to appeal to the younger market.

HRH the Princess Royal stressed that “one of the fundamental requirements of getting people actively involved is fun. It has to be fun so they must want to join in. I have a bit of experience in this both in the UK and overseas,” she said. “If that is the role of the Youth Commission, I would agree.”

The Congress is a talking shop, with much of the decision-making done in little huddles in the lobby and side rooms off the main hall.

Throughout all these discussions, one group was excluded from the conference halls. The media had to follow the proceedings on television in the press working area. Access was granted to the lobby, where there was an opportunity to mingle with IOC members, international federation bosses and other conference participants. It does seem a strange way to promote Olympism.

The serious business of the IOC Session resumes today, when attractions include Coe and Paul Deighton on London’s progress. On Friday, rugby 7s could be added to the Games programme, while observers here expect golf to be restored to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

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