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Sunday, August 27, 2000

IOC horses at the post

Candidates line up to succeed Samaranch

  LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- In normal horse races, the betting public is aware of all the particulars that appear on horses' and jockeys' charts.

 Not so for the International Olympic Committee race for the president's trophy. In fact, the starters in next year's big race for the golden chair of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the retiring president of the IOC, are not yet officially known.

 Just as Beijing, Toronto and Paris are deemed frontrunners in the race to host the 2008 Olympic Games, so are the names of Canada's Dick Pound and Belgium's Dr. Jacques Rogge touted as the most serious candidates for the presidency of the world's richest sports organization before the IOC meetings next July in Moscow.

 Quiet inquires lead to the conclusion that there are seven darkhorses lurking near the post: Anita DeFrantz of the United States; Hungary's Pal Schmitt; France's Jean-Claude Killy; South Korea's Un Yong Kim; Germany's Dr. Thomas Bach; Mexico's Mario Vazquez Rana; and Australia's Kevan Gosper.

 European insiders who were whispering in the corridors of the Chateau de Vidy this week, the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, the favourite for the presidency is Rogge, a surgeon who also is a nobleman with the title of "Chevalier."

 The good doctor speaks five languages fluently and was appointed by Samaranch to head co-ordination committees for both the Sydney 2000 and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. He's friendly and polite, but hasn't proven himself under fire.

 Still, it's expected that many of the 47 European IOC members will vote for Dr. Rogge, who joined the IOC in 1991.

 Dick Pound, first vice-president of the IOC, Montreal corporate lawyer and chancellor of McGill University, has proven himself in several instances.

 Samaranch has said that if he finds himself in difficulty, he always calls on Pound. He did so when the IOC needed money, and Pound negotiated a multi-billion-dollar television contract with NBC.

 When the Salt Lake City bribery scandal broke, the president again called on Pound and asked him to lead the investigation, which didn't make Pound popular with some IOC members, but showed his leadership quality and determination. And when WADA, the IOC's anti-doping agency, was created it again was Pound who was asked to be its head. He has been serving as chairman of the marketing and other IOC committees and has been a member of the IOC for 22 years.

 Pound's handicap may be that he's not a gladhander. He doesn't socialize with all IOC members, doesn't suffer fools gladly and his forthright personality gets him into some hot water.

 Schmitt, the Hungarian, is a real darkhorse. The two-time Olympic gold medallist in fencing followed pretty much the pattern set by the outgoing president. Samaranch was Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union, then became chief of protocol for the IOC before he was voted in as president. Lord Killanin, who preceded Samaranch as IOC president, followed that pattern too -- he was chief of protocol before being elected to the top post.

 Schmitt was Hungarian ambassador in Spain before he was appointed ambassador to Switzerland and now resides in Bern. He has been member of the IOC for 17 years and president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee for 10. He, too, speaks five languages and is hoping to take away European votes from Rogge.

 "I'm not better than the other two (Pound and Rogge), but neither am I any worse," he said last week.

 Interesting are the chances of Anita DeFrantz, who'll succeed Pound as first vice-president following the Sydney Olympics. She'll be the first African-American woman in that position, something that could earn her support from African and Caribbean delegates.

 She has been active in many IOC commissions and chaired a Women in Sport global seminar in Paris last year. The Princeton University graduate in law is amiable and widely respected. She could well give the men a run for their money.

 Korea's Un Yong Kim is a very powerful figure not only in Korea, but also in Asia as a whole. His age, 69, practically eliminates him from the presidential race, but he and 68-year-old Mario Vazquez Rana, the Ted Rogers of Mexico, are considered kingmakers because of their influential positions. They could have a decisive impact on the final outcome of the voting, even though their own chances to be elected are minimal.

 Gosper, a vice-president of the IOC and chairman of the IOC's Press Commission in addition to the various positions he holds with the Sydney Organizing Committee, is a former prominent businessman and Commonwealth Games 400-metre gold medallist (Vancouver, 1954). He's also a Hall of Famer in track and field. Even though he has been an IOC member longer than the other candidates, his age, 67, also is against him.

 The remaining two would-be candidates, Killy, the Olympic master skier and co-chair of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, and Bach, the brilliant German legal mind, also have age against them: they're too young for the position of IOC president. Each is only 47-years-old. They may have to wait for the next presidential derby.

 In any case, in this race I'll put my toonie on Richard Pound.

 Corporate Sports Editor George Gross' column appears Sunday. Gross is a member of the IOC Press Commission.