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IOC Takes Cue From Its Leader

October 21, 1986|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Even though Spain's Juan Antonio Samaranch has been International Olympic Committee president for six years, his power, as well as his popularity, was not fully confirmed until last week.

In effect, Samaranch has been the IOC's undisputed leader for only one year, beginning with the resignation of the committee's executive director, Monique Berlioux of France.

They are philosophical opposites, Berlioux standing for tradition as established a century ago by a fellow countryman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Samaranch pressing for change as dictated by today's economic and political realities. There was not room in this town for both.

When Berlioux returned home to write her memoirs, which will not be a favorite in the Samaranch household, the Paris organizing committee for the 1992 Summer Olympics drafted her, believing she still had enough influence with the 89 IOC members to carry the vote.

Paris' primary rival was Barcelona, Samaranch's hometown.

While Samaranch did not campaign, or even vote, Barcelona's overwhelming victory over Paris and four other cities last week at the IOC's 91st session also was a decisive victory for the president. Realizing several months ago that her involvement with the Paris candidacy was doing more harm than good, Berlioux moved to a less visible role, waving a white handkerchief.

Also surrendered was much of the Coubertin idealism that has, in some respects, elevated the Olympic movement, while in others has prevented it from moving at all.

The Olympics still stand for swifter, higher, stronger because they are, above all else, athletic contests.

But for the Olympics to prosper in the 21st Century, the IOC has had to create conditions by which it can become richer, richer, richer.

Leading the Olympics into the new era has been Samaranch, supported by a younger, more aggressive IOC, half of whose membership has been elected within the last 10 years. With one-third of the members 70 or older, and a retirement age of 75 for those elected since 1966, the progressive trend is expected to continue.

Some of the more conservative IOC members are suspicious of Samaranch's relationship with Horst Dassler, West German president of Adidas, the sports shoe company, and creator of International Sports and Leisure (ISL), an international marketing firm based in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Although he is not an IOC member, Dassler's considerable influence is believed to have put Samaranch in the presidency.

When ISL later received an exclusive contract with the IOC, there was speculation that it was a quid pro quo arrangement with Samaranch.

But IOC members do not dispute that ISL had a more attractive proposal than its competitors.

Likewise, no one argues that Dassler chose the wrong man when he campaigned for Samaranch.

With Samaranch's imprint, the recent IOC session was extraordinary.

"This is the most dynamic session I've ever seen," said Harold Zimman, a USOC executive committee member who was attending his 11th session.

Most significant was the IOC's decision to change the Winter Games cycle, starting in 1994, so that they will not occur in the same year as the Summer Games, an issue that was not even on the agenda when the session began.

Although it was not discussed at this session, the next move to strengthen the appeal of the Winter Olympics, according to IOC members, could be the transfer of some indoor sports from the Summer Olympics, among them basketball and volleyball.

That not only would add to the attractiveness of the winter program, which has only six sports, but would increase the involvement in the Winter Games of South American, Asian and African countries, which, except for Japan, are virtually excluded from snow and ice events.

Some obvious problems would have to be resolved. For example, traditional candidates for the Winter Olympics, usually ski resorts, do not have the facilities for basketball and volleyball. Either they would have to build new arenas, which might not be used again, or the IOC would have to award the Winter Games to larger cities.

Also, in basketball, the United States would have to field a team in the winter, the height of the college season.

Of course, there would be a different problem if the IOC admits all professional basketball players into the Olympics.

Every indication is that the IOC will accept the eligibility rules of the international basketball federation. Earlier this year, FIBA changed the A in its title from Amateur to Associations and voted to exclude only NBA players. If it eventually becomes open to all professionals, the IOC would have to seek an accommodation with the NBA, assuming that basketball becomes a winter sport.

The IOC already is prepared to work with the NHL in ice hockey, which last week was opened to all professionals for the 1988 Winter Olympics.

There was no objection from the Soviets, presumably because they figure they can beat the Canadian NHL players.

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