Army officer takes charge of Olympic Committee
Swiss army officer Urs Lacotte has become the new chief executive of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
swissinfo spoke to Lacotte as he prepares for next summer’s Olympic Games at a time when many sports are dogged by doping scandals.
Lacotte is the right-hand man of Jacques Rogge, the IOC’s Belgian president.
He started his new role on November 1, filling a seat that had been occupied for 14 years by Swiss lawyer François Carrard.
Formerly stationed at army staff headquarters in Bern, Colonel Lacotte is now based at the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne.
Lacotte has previous experience of the sporting world, after stints at the Swiss Sport Association (now called the Swiss Olympic Association) and Swiss Ski.
swissinfo: You have ushered in a new era at the IOC, because you are the first full-time executive. Do you feel under pressure?
Urs Lacotte: More like very humble and proud. The change doesn’t scare me, since I have been here before. In my professional life, I have undergone numerous changes, notably moving from the public to the private sector, and then back again.
My appointment as a full-time chief executive is in keeping with the evolution of the IOC over the past twenty years, which has been huge. Audits carried out two or three years ago clearly indicated the need for full-time management at director level.
For example, the number of employees in Lausanne has grown from around twenty to more than 250 people.
Meanwhile, the administrative budget has reached $65 million. And this only amounts to eight per cent of the overall budget, if you take into account money distributed to the organisation’s different federations and committees.
swissinfo: The president, Jacques Rogge, has chosen you as his right-hand man. What will be your main tasks?
U.L.: From my point of view, there are several major tasks. The first is to ensure that the expansion initiated by [former] President Samaranch continues.
The second job is to maintain the quality of the Olympic Games. The Games are the lifeblood of the Olympic movement: they are the IOC’s raison d’être. The current big challenge is Athens 2004.
The third task will be to pursue a high standard of administration – corporate governance – by improving efficiency and transparency.
Finally, there has to be a big focus on security, corruption and doping.
swissinfo: At the moment, the scandal surrounding THG – tetrahydrogestrinone – has shaken the world of sport. Is the fight against the cheats a losing battle?
U.L.: Sport is no different from society. The same problems are present in both and that worries us, which is why we have to address them.
The only alternative to combating doping would be to liberalise it, which would mean surrendering. We would also be renouncing the values that we hold most dear.
swissinfo: Outside events, such as court rulings, are increasingly influencing the world of sport. Does this worry you?
U.L.: No. Business and commercial interests are becoming more and more important. Society is developing and the same goes for sport as well. We need to find solutions and practical ways to solve these problems. We have to adapt to changing situations.
swissinfo: There are a number of Swiss occupying executive positions on international bodies. Why do you think many of these organisations are also based in Switzerland?
U.L.: The Swiss are hard workers. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any better than people from other countries. But being Swiss means you are confronted with different cultures from an early age. You learn to respect others as well as the art of consensus and diplomacy.
swissinfo–interview: Mathias Froidevaux (translation: Joanne Shields)
Urs Lacotte studied at the universities of Bern and Bayreuth, and gained an MBA at the university of St Gallen.
1982 to 1990: he was assistant director of the Swiss Sport Association (now the Swiss Olympic Association).
1984 to 1990: he worked for the Swiss air force.
1990 to 1996: Lacotte become a project leader for Electrowatt Engineering in southeast Asia.
He then returned to the ministry of defence, and became an officer in the army.
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