Two weeks after his shocking speech in Sochi, Marius Vizer gave a passionate, yet defiant defense of his fiery rhetoric, which drew the scorn of the IOC and other global sports governing bodies.
The SportAccord chief, who also heads the International Judo Federation, insists the content and tone of his speech on April 20 at the SportAccord general assembly, was appropriate because “I have truth on my side,” he told The Japan Times in an exclusive interview.
Furthermore, in a statement issued by the IJF office, Vizer said that he has no regrets about the content of his speech or the reaction to it.
“Everything I expressed in my declaration at the opening of the SportAccord general assembly reflects realities, which need to be remediated with dialogue, solutions and action — in this particular order — and in the shortest time possible,” Vizer said.
“I particularly respect and I am convinced of the values of Olympism for the entire society, of the values attached to the Olympic Games, but I will militate that the structure existing behind these incontestable values of humanity has as priority visions and strategies based on real issues of modern sports.”
That said, does he feel that he’s affecting change or sparking it by personally lashing out at the IOC and Thomas Bach, its president?
“I consider that through my attitude I protect the very interests of Olympism and the fact that in a democratic society we can approach real subjects and express freely ideas about fairness and principles of the system is very important,” said Vizer.
“I also consider that these are the primary subjects that need solution and I believe that with my initiative a door is being opened, a door that has been closed for tens of years. And my declarations come exactly in the sense of progress and positive change, not the contrary.”
Among the most hard-hitting statements Vizer made in his SportAccord speech was his assessment of Olympic economics throughout the world.
“If indeed the IOC distributes $3.25 million a day, every day of the year, for the development of sport worldwide, why do millions of athletes suffer and cannot enjoy or reach performances in sport? Vizer asked in the city that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics.
He added: “Together, SportAccord and IOC must find a solution to compensate national federations and athletes from their events. Today, the money invested in sport never reaches the athletes and their families.”
Asked by this newspaper if his Sochi speech was successful, Vizer responded by saying, “Of course, the reactions after my declaration were different and I appreciate that in the meantime many opinions were induced. I can feel this because immediately after my opening address, after my report as SportAccord president, after the administrative report of SportAccord, there were no negative comments at all, no protests or interrogations about me. There was also the possibility for the international federations: presidents to express their protest through a secret vote, which again did not happen.
“This leads me to the conclusion that all the controversies appeared after the coffee break, when some international federations were approached and influenced to react against me.
“If time will prove me right? I am convinced it will, even sooner than some people expect, due to one very simple reason: I have the truth on my side.”
For how long did Vizer feel this critique of the IOC, including its Agenda 2020 reforms, needed to be made? Was it appropriate during Jacques Rogge’s reign as IOC president?
“The critical analysis that I initiated was actually the voice of many international federations, a subject that has been analyzed and commented for a long time, but not in an official framework, and not in a public space,” Vizer said. “This should have been initiated a long time ago. However, I hoped that the IOC president, Thomas Bach, would remediate these shortcomings that are there for a long time, through a real reform, at the same time with the beginning of his mandate.
“The fact that nothing happened awakened this voice in me and I hope it will be heard and it will become a premise for the beginning, with utmost energy, of some reforms towards the benefit of Olympism and sport in general.”