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Pound worth watching in 2001
Montrealer should head IOC, but
internal politicking could have an effect


Friday, December 29, 2000

The presidency of the International Olympic Committee -- make that the throne of world sport -- becomes vacant this summer when Spain's Juan Antonio Samaranch finally retires at 80.

The balloting to choose a successor will hold considerably more suspense for Canadians than the recent federal election. Montreal lawyer Richard Pound was once thought to be a slam dunk to replace Samaranch, but that's not the case today.

He is by all rights the correct man for the job. It was Pound who set up the original top-sponsor marketing plan for world-wide sales of the Olympic logo. It now brings in $55-million (U.S.) per Olympic, coming from 14 different multinational corporations. And it is Pound who has conducted the multi-billion-dollar marketing of television rights. The financial success of the Games was built largely on his business acumen and deal-making.

When the bribery scandal hit in Salt Lake City, it was Pound who was dispatched to investigate and recommend expulsions of the greedy IOC members. And, when the IOC decided to take a global approach to deal with the plague of doping, it fell to Pound to establish the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He's experienced in all the right areas, has the right contacts, a good image and good media relations. But all of that can be upset by the internal politicking of the IOC. He's playing it cagey for now, not officially declaring his candidacy. The same goes for the man seen as his chief rival for the presidency, Belgium's Dr. Jacques Rogge. Rogge has a block of European support. He is the IOC co-ordinator for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and his defence of those organizationally challenged Games is a rallying point for European solidarity.

Other possible candidates are South Korea's Kim Un-yong, Germany's Thomas Bach, Italy's Franco Carraro and Anita DeFrantz of the United States.
They have until April 16 to make their candidacy official.

But IOC members close to the Belgian surgeon have already begun quietly campaigning on his behalf.

Kim received a severe warning over his behaviour during the inquiry into the Salt Lake City scandal -- obtaining employment for his son and concert dates for his pianist daughter. But even if that dulled his chances, he's seen as a king maker -- and is no friend of Pound's after being exposed in Salt Lake City.

But Rogge's backers don't see Kim supporting their side, either, and they fear Kim might run himself to take Asian votes away from Rogge.

Pound, on the other hand was admonished by Samaranch this fall for hinting that Athens could be stripped of the 2004 Olympics because of their lack of preparation. Samaranch denounced the suggestion and Rogge has since said the Greeks are getting their game together.

Rogge said he would make up his mind about publicly declaring his candidacy around Christmas. He'll depend on European support, and that's the biggest bloc within the IOC.

"The next president should be a European. We have the culture, the history and we understand what Olympism is," Italian IOC member Mario Pescante told Agence France-Presse.

One thing is certain, according to senior IOC members. The election battle will be nasty. "You can be sure of that. So much is at stake," said one member.

Others to watch:
2. John Bitove Jr., is chief executive officer of the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid and the site for those Games will be determined at the same Moscow meeting where the IOC presidency is decided. There could be a double-coup for Canada. If Beijing beats Toronto for 2008, will Bitove hang in for a 2012 bid?
3. Mike Lysko, newly minted Canadian Football League commissioner, has declared his intention to expand the CFL by at least two teams in Canada by 2003. The league hasn't opened a new Canadian market since adding Vancouver 46 years ago. A return to Ottawa is possible. London, Halifax and Quebec City are possibilities but need stadiums.
4. Denis Coderre, Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, could be elevated to minister status, especially if an Olympics is coming to Canada. Meanwhile, he's working diligently on the nuts and bolts of an athlete-centred domestic sport program, dispute resolution mechanism, funding and corporate partnerships.
5. Diane Jones Konihowski was chef de mission of the Canadian Olympic team at Sydney. A former world-leading pentathlete, she has the respect of Canadian athletes who mention her as a possible successor to Canadian Olympic Association CEO Carol Anne Letheren, whose term expires in 2002.
6. Vladimir Guererro of the Montreal Expo is the most exciting ball player working in Canada. He set eight team batting records this past season including batting average (.345), slugging percentage (.664), home runs (44), extra-base hits (93), total bases (379), extra bases on long hits (179), home runs in one month (13, in September) and home runs at home (25). Grossly underpaid, he has three years left on the five-year, $28-million contract he signed in 1999.
7. Buck Martinez, new manager of the Toronto Blue Jays makes the transition from the broadcast booth to the dugout. Martinez has never coached or managed at any level except as a fatherly assistant on his son's team at Sacramento State. But he is a top-notch communicator and motivator who has surrounded himself with an experienced coaching staff. He made a big contribution in December by joining CEO Paul Godfrey to sweet-talk free-agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez into a four-year contract.
8. Jeff Giles presided in the CFL office in recent seasons when the sagging league shored up many weaknesses. Attendance improved, TV numbers soared, ownership stabilized and demographics improved. Now, can Giles lead that kind of nation-wide revolution in the Toronto market, where he's the new president of the Argonauts?
9. Jacques Villeneuve, originally from Iberville, Que., wants to rebound after plodding along to seventh in the Formula One drivers' standing for British American Racing. BAR-Honda improved by 20 points over a dismal debut season in 1999 and ended fifth in the constructors' standing, tied for points with fourth-place Benetton.
10. Celine Dion. The chanteuse is a wild-card in a sports list, except there's a persistent suggestion that she's interested in the sale of the Montreal Canadiens. Owning and operating a hockey club is not her goal, but the Molson Centre intrigues her and husband Rene Angelil as a concert venue for acts coming into Montreal.

Canada's sports leaders

Saturday: The leaders and losers
Tuesday: The athletes
Wednesday: The unsung heroes
Yesterday: The media stars
Today: Ten to watch in 2001

Follow the series at and make your pick for Canada's Sports Leader in 2000.

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