SOCHI, Russia – The head of the association representing international sports federations launched a scathing attack on the IOC on Monday, accusing the Olympic body of running a system that is "expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent."
With IOC President Thomas Bach looking on, SportAccord chief Marius Vizer said the International Olympic Committee could be "headed for destruction" if it does not grant the federations more power.
Vizer accused Bach of blocking federations' plans for multi-sports events, interfering in the autonomy of sports organizations and excluding key leaders from voting on Olympic host cities.
He also criticized the IOC's plans for an Olympic TV channel as a waste of money and complained that cities bidding for 2022 Winter Games were prohibited from making presentations at the SportAccord conference in Sochi.
Vizer said he had tried to develop a good relationship with Bach based on collaboration and respect.
"Unfortunately, it never became reality," he said.
The strongly-worded speech marked an unprecedented public show of discord within the Olympic movement and fully exposed the rift between Bach and Vizer, whose umbrella body represents Olympic and non-Olympic federations.
Bach responded that Vizer's views were not representative of SportAccord's member federations and that the IOC had an "open dialogue" with them.
"Following many discussions I have had with many of your colleagues ... my impression is a little bit that your opinion you have exclusively for you," Bach said in his speech to the convention. "Many people have made constructive proposals which are ending up in even closer cooperation between the IOC and the international federations."
Vizer's outburst came after the IOC decided not to hold an executive board meeting during the convention in Sochi, a snub that breaks with tradition going back to the first conference in 1993.
Vizer's speech sparked an immediate backlash among some Olympic sports leaders, with IAAF President Lamine Diack withdrawing track and field's world governing body from SportAccord in protest.
A group of 14 federation presidents, including FIFA's Sepp Blatter, signed a letter contesting Vizer's comments and expressing support for Bach and the IOC. The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations said it would meet Tuesday to consider its position amid speculation the sports could pull out en masse.
Vizer, who also heads the International Judo Federation, called for serving sports officials to be guaranteed a majority of votes in the IOC and for more Olympic revenue to be distributed to national sports federations and athletes.
"History demonstrated that all the empires who reached the highest peaks of development never reformed on time and they are all headed for destruction," he said. "The IOC system today is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent."
Vizer said federations had been sidelined in Bach's "Olympic Agenda 2020" reform program and that the IOC's planned Olympic digital channel — due to be launched later this year — was approved "without a clear business plan."
"The cost of $450 million to establish a digital channel seems exaggerated," he said.
The IOC has had a fraught relationship with Vizer, who was elected in 2013 as head of SportAccord, taking over from former international cycling federation chief Hein Verbruggen. The Romania-born Vizer was re-elected unopposed for four more years Monday.
Vizer has proposed holding a "United World Championships" for all the sports federations every four years, a potential direct challenge to the IOC and the Olympics. The plan has never materialized.
"I made a number of proposals in favor and for the benefit of IFs (international federations) but we have never received a positive reaction," Vizer said in his speech.
Addressing Bach, he said, "Mr. President, please stop blocking the SportAccord strategy in its mission to identify and organize conventions and multi-sport games."
Shortly after Vizer's speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a call for unity.
"I am convinced that in any sports movement, any confrontations or inability or lack of desire to hear one another really threatens the unity of the world sports movement," said Putin, who also held separate meetings with Bach and Blatter.
Vizer announced later that SportAccord would stage the first multi-sport World Beach Games in Sochi in 2019. The project, in the works for years, had originally been planned in conjunction with the Association of National Olympic Committees and its powerful head, Kuwait's Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.
Sheik Ahmad said ANOC would announce its own plans for a beach games in June. He also defended Bach and his "Olympic Agenda 2020" program, which was approved in December and is intended to make the Olympics more flexible and cost-effective.
"I know that the voices of both the NOCs (national Olympic committees) and the international federations were heard by IOC President Bach and the IOC," the sheik said. "Under President Bach's leadership we look forward to moving towards a more united and brighter future."
Wilson reported from London.