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IOC Urged to Make Major Changes

Olympics: Report says committee lacks focus on its primary goal of having top-notch Games. The hiring of chief operating officer to oversee management is encouraged.

October 04, 2002|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The International Olympic Committee too often loses sight of its core business--to put on first-rate Olympic Games--and should implement fundamental management and strategic changes, an IOC-commissioned report concludes. The report notes distractions, a "dysfunctional" bureaucracy, poor staff morale and "no real focus on what matters."

The report, one of a series of far-reaching IOC-chartered audits now underway, recommends that the IOC create a new post, chief operating officer, with the idea that Games management ought to be centralized in a single accountable executive. No such position now exists.

The findings were based on a study by a team overseen by Fraser Bullock, CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. It was recommended that the IOC implement wholesale changes in what is called a "coordination commission"--an IOC task force charged with overseeing a local organizing committee's progress toward putting on the Games. The report says the CoComs, as they are known in IOC parlance, are typically weak and ineffective.

The study, many details of which were recently reviewed by The Times, is a key piece in a wide-ranging mix of reforms up for consideration under Jacques Rogge, the Belgian who last July was elected the IOC's eighth president.

At issue are fundamental organizational philosophies--because a smartly run Games ramps up the economic engine that drives the IOC and, by extension, the Olympic movement worldwide.

The movement is now a $1-billion-per-year operation.

Coming off the Salt Lake Winter Games last February, which were seen as a logistical success, and looking forward to the Athens Summer Games in 2004, Rogge said, "We have a two-year window of opportunity to have a look at the organization."

Bullock declined to confirm details of the study. He acknowledged only that it was done.

The report frames a central tension that has long bedeviled the IOC: Is it in business merely to stage the Games? Or are the Games solely the means to an end--that is, is it the IOC's mission to advance the cause of peace and goodwill through sport, with the Games as a worthy showcase but the essential work elsewhere?

The report takes no position on what the IOC ought to do with the ancillary work. It says quite clearly, however, that the Games--and meaningful support for the local organizing committees that actually stage the Games--ought to be an unquestioned priority No. 1.

A telling quote from one interview cited in the report says there's "not enough support to [organizing committees]--we need to put the cathedral back in the middle of the square."

The IOC staff, based at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland--many with years of experience in the Olympic movement--is uniquely positioned to monitor Games preparation, the report says.

But, the report makes plain, too many staffers don't know or, worse, don't care what their colleagues are doing.

"Our ideas are not solicited nor considered relevant," one said. Another--all the quotes in the report are anonymous--said, "I have no understanding of what other areas do." Another said, "There is secrecy over all issues." One staffer said, "Career progression and salary growth is nonexistent, with management embarrassed to even discuss it." Morale is "at an all-time low."

Under the IOC's current structure, a director general, Francois Carrard, oversees the Lausanne-based staff. The report is not critical of Carrard. It says, though, that no one in Lausanne is ultimately on the line for ensuring successful Games--thus the recommendation for a chief operating officer.

Rogge, stressing that he was not confirming or denying details in the report but speaking in general about the IOC's organizational chart, said, "If you ask me whether a chief operating officer would be a great change at the IOC, my idea is no. We are working with a professional staff."

Meantime, the oversight role falls to the coordination commissions, which typically make two visits per year to a Games city. The commissions are dominated by IOC members--all of them volunteers, some of them with vast experience in Games preparation, others with marginal or no experience.

"Seldom in my life have I been reviewed by those with so little a capability to do so," the report quotes one of those interviewed as saying.

The political obstacle in changing the current system is easy to grasp--as a consequence of the corruption scandal that erupted in late 1998 over Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Games, IOC members can no longer visit cities bidding for the Games, leaving the commissions as one of the few high-mileage perks still available.

Besides serving as chair of the Sydney 2000 coordinating commission, Rogge also headed the Athens 2004 commission until his election as IOC president. He said, "A CoCom is a way to force [local organizers] to move forward. How many times in Australia and Greece have we seen that the fact that the CoCom is coming makes the organizers all of a sudden accelerate by the next visit? It's a bit of a boost effect."

Besides Bullock's report, the IOC this summer commissioned several other business-related studies--to look at issues involving technology, human resources, tax and legal affairs, the museum, marketing and information management.

In all, these seven audits will cost the IOC about $350,000. Bullock's was done free.

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