By Jonathan Rest
Denis Oswald, president of FISA, the international rowing federation, has told Sportcal that there is enough flexibility in his proposal to seek re-election for a transitional period only later this year, should, as seems increasingly likely, he also make a run for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee.
Oswald, who has led FISA for the last 24 years, announced at an extraordinary congress of the federation in Copenhagen last weekend that he would seek re-election for a short period of time in order to pass on his knowledge to a president-elect.
The IOC elections and those of FISA are both in September, and Oswald, who exclusively told Sportcal last month that he was considering standing to replace IOC president Jacques Rogge, said that he was continuing to receive positive feedback from the Olympic family.
The Swiss official said last month that, against his own expectations, he had received messages from some 15 IOC members urging him to stand.
He did not say by how much that number has risen, but told Sportcal: "I have been in touch with some more colleagues. It has been positive. It is still difficult for them to take a position and commit themselves [to one candidate]. I’m trying to find out what kind of support I can get. If I can get that support, I will run."
His rivals for the position could include: Germany’s Thomas Bach; Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion; Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka; Singapore’s Ser Miang Ng; and, perhaps an outside chance, and the only woman in the potential line-up, Morocco’s Nawal El Moutawakel.
Oswald said he expects a public announcement of presidential runners "in March or April," ahead of the June 10 deadline for candidates to confirm their intention to stand.
Asked how he would juggle his time if elected to both positions - the FISA Congress is on September 2 in Chungju, Korea, while the IOC presidential election is in Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 10 - Oswald replied: "The advantage of this [FISA] solution is that it is flexible. There is no fixed time. It will be less than one year, it could even be just two months. If I run and I’m elected [as IOC president] we would shorten this period [at FISA] to make sure that it is compatible with another position."
Oswald argued that it is his "responsibility" to serve for a transitional period at FISA to ensure "a smooth transition by introducing my successor to my colleagues at other international federations and at the IOC, so he or she does not start from zero."
The 65-year-old recently stepped down from the IOC’s executive board after reaching the end of a 12-year spell as president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, where he fronted the organisation's opposition to the European Games, a new multi-sports event that will debut in Baku, Azerbaijan in late June 2015.
Oswald has frequently criticised the European Olympic Committees for failing to consult with the international federations, which organise the sports calendar and provide officials for events.
The 2015 European Games will involve at least 15 Olympic sports and two non-Olympic sports, likely to be karate and dance sport. European confederations representing 13 sports have already signed letters of intent to be included in the 2015 European Games: archery; badminton; boxing; canoeing; fencing; handball; judo; rugby (sevens); shooting; table tennis; taekwondo; triathlon; and volleyball.
Oswald said there has yet to be an approach from the EOC to include rowing on the programme - laughing off a suggestion that his stance had scared off Patrick Hickey, president of the EOC, from even asking - but added that he would not necessarily block rowers' participation in Baku.
He explained: "Relations between IFs and continental federations vary. If you take football for example, Uefa is independent of Fifa; it cannot be dictated to. But in other sports, the international federation keeps control. In some cases, I’m sure the IF could impose to the continental organisations not to compete. At FISA, we would tell them we feel it is not good, that we need to protect the athletes. But if in the end they want to participate, we would not stand in their way."
However, Oswald warned that even with rowing's buy-in, the sport's top athletes would not compete because of the final of the Rowing World Cup in July.
He noted: "Only a B team would be able to compete [in Baku]. Our other rowers would be participating in the World Cup. We'd also probably not stage the European Championships that year, there is just not enough space on the calendar."
It is the calendar issue that most concerns Oswald when the European Games subject is broached, and he argues that patience from the EOC would have resulted in a much better product.
He continued: "The international sports calendar is very full in Europe already. There is not a free date that suits. What's more, 2015 is a year where we have Olympic Games qualification for most international federations. The European Games is an additional competition, at an additional expense.
"Another consideration is that IFs' commercial deals cover an Olympiad, so the current ones run until 2016. After that it becomes easier. If we know it is coming further in advance, we could plan properly and try to alter the calendar.
"The sponsorship pie in Europe is only so big. If you have to share it further with another event, we would lose an income which for many IFs is their main source of survival. It is a similar problem with broadcast rights. TV coverage of our sports is precious anyway, so we would maybe lose coverage of some of our other events in favour of these games.
"If there had been time to consult the date, discuss and find solutions, the outcome would have been better."
Oswald argued that failure to do that has left the EOC with "a limited number of sports, and not all the big ones" for Baku 2015.
Athletics has already dealt the EOC a blow by refusing to participate in the inaugural games, citing a busy calendar and obligations to rights-holders. Wrestling could also miss out, while discussions are continuing with LEN, swimming's European governing body.
Oswald continued: "There was not even a bid process. They discussed it directly with Baku. They have had to go where the money is. They have even had to include non-Olympic Games sports to make it a decent programme."