Frank Elizalde’s choice–the IOC or bustBy Percy D. Della
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SACRAMENTO, California—There he was, in what could be his last official act as the Philippine representative to the International Olympic Committee.
For Francisco J. Elizalde, there was nothing more glorious than striding the last 30 meters of a 27-year membership in the IOC and stringing gold medals on the necks of anxious NBA millionaires.
The occasion was the awarding ceremony for basketball at the recently concluded London Olympics where the United States’ Redeem Team proved it wasn’t a one-hit wonder.
The US team defeated Spain, just like it did in Beijing four years ago, to retain the basketball crown it lost to Argentina—only for the second time in Olympic history—in Athens in 2004.
And if you watched that medal presentation unfold on the telly, the guy who made Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and a host of giddy NBA superstars star-struck themselves was good old Mr. Elizalde.
Frank, a member of one of the country’s blue-blooded business families, will retire at age 80, not on his own terms but by the rules of the IOC—the all-powerful panel that promotes the Games and decides where they will be held and how.
The retirement age for an IOC member is actually 70, but members co-opted between 1966 and 1999, Frank included, to serve until they reach age 80.
When he was first elected IOC member in 1985, the IOC president was Juan Antonio Samaranch, a Spanish diplomat who transformed the modern Olympics into a business empire with gigantic TV contracts and sponsors.
Samaranch went on to serve the second longest term—21 years—as president of the IOC.
Although tainted by charges of corruption in Olympics site selection, the IOC is revered by business types as a sturdy rock in a world rocked by economic turmoil.
Belgian orthopedic surgeon Jacques Rogge is the departing IOC president, the first to be forced out by fresh term limits and the retirement age (70).
Rogge reported during the London Games that Olympic broadcast revenues doubled in the last decade and would reach $4 billion for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. Commercial sponsorship nearly doubled in the last 10 years and will hit $1 billion for the next two Games.
Elizalde’s IOC membership has helped instill Olympic values in Filipino youth, but has not resulted in less stringent qualification standards for Filipino Olympic hopefuls, not by a long shot.
Everybody still has to go through the wringer to qualify.
But the prestige of being in the IOC—some of the members are a dozen princes and princesses, a number of sheikhs, former Olympians and business magnates—is fueling speculation about who Elizalde will anoint as his successor.
Elizalde is said to have somebody in mind, but he’d rather not tell who. Besides, the IOC has the final say in selecting or not selecting a replacement for Elizalde to join the elite group of 106 members from 80 or so countries.
The London Observer described the IOC as an organization “criticized for being corrupt, secretive and the epitome of an old boys’ network.”
“The committee doesn’t meet very often but when it does, no expense is spared and no ceremony overlooked,” the Observer reported.
For the London Games, according to the newspaper, among the perks for IOC members included “a block of $2,000-a-night rooms reserved at an exclusive hotel, cocktails with the Queen and a reserved lane (for a fleet of limousines) for members on the jammed London highways.”
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