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IOC unveils candidates to succeed Samaranch

Juan Antonio Samaranch announcing the candidates to succeed him Keystone Archive

The long-awaited contest to find a successor to Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee has begun after the organisation officially announced its list of five candidates.

After 21 years as IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch is stepping down, leaving the way clear for what promises to be a battle royal for his crown.

The struggle for succession appears to be a five-horse race, with three contenders emerging as “front-runners”, and two others as “also-rans”.

At the head of the field are such heavyweights as Canada’s Dick Pound, South Korea’s Kim Un Yong and Belgium’s Jacques Rogge. Hungary’s Pal Schmitt and the United States’ Anita DeFrantz are also in the running, but are thought not to stand much of a chance.

Samaranch’s lengthy reign officially closes at the 112th IOC session in Moscow on July 16, and candidates have until then to stake their claim for the presidency.

Succession battle

Those with a sense of schadenfreude will no doubt enjoy watching the unfolding succession battle between Dick Pound and Kim Un Yong.

Their last public encounter followed the Salt Lake City “cash for votes” scandal, when Kim received a “most severe warning” two years ago from Pound’s investigative committee for his role in the bribery scandal.

Six IOC members were expelled and four more resigned over allegations that they accepted cash, lavish gifts, free travel, scholarships and other inducements to vote for Salt Lake City, Utah, as host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

And in a further twist, the trial of two former senior members of the Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee, who are charged with 15 counts of conspiracy and racketeering, gets underway in Utah on July 16 – the same day Samaranch steps down and the vote for his successor takes place.

Alert to the potential for more bad press, the IOC’s ethics commission has drawn up a new set of rules for candidates, designed to rule out any behind-the-scenes deals and to ensure a level playing field for all.

Candidates are effectively banned from campaigning: they cannot meet or buy dinner for other IOC members and they cannot publicly outline their manifesto for the presidency.

Come July 16, around 120 voting members will get their chance to close the door on one of the more unsavoury periods of Olympic history and welcome in a new era.

swissinfo with agencies

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