TOKYO (AP) – The corruption case involving a powerful IOC member promised to sow confusion when 206 National Olympic Committees, known by the acronym ANOC, kicked off two days of meetings in Tokyo on Wednesday.
He did just that and offered a good theater.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad as Sabah, known as the "Manufacturer of Olympic Games", had temporarily resigned earlier in the week as president of ANOC. He said he needed to fight a criminal case in Switzerland and was reportedly also pressured to withdraw from the International Olympic Committee.
Due to the corruption case, the Kuwaiti Sheikh last week was also suspended from his 26 years of membership in the IOC.
The sheikh is accused by the prosecutors of Geneva of falsification in a supposed case of false arbitration involving four others. He is also a longtime ally of the IOC president, Thomas Bach. Many accredit him with the votes to obtain Bach elected in 2013.
The Sheikh was able to be re-elected to the ANOC presidency, without opposition, but asked members on Wednesday to vacate the vacancy while he fights his case in court.
In the end, that is what happened without a fixed date for the presidential election. Meanwhile, senior vice president Robin Mitchell of Fiji will be in charge.
In a long debate, dozens of members urged him to run, defying the wishes of Bach and the IOC, which has been embarrassed by the recent cases of corruption.
The Sheikh told about 1,400 delegates of his wishes in the morning, clenching his fist to make a point, or waving a finger to emphasize.
But he had to come back in the afternoon to do his case again.
"You missed me, I missed you," he joked to begin his second address.
"I'll be there for you all the time," the Sheikh told the delegates, implying that he will still be in charge of the show. "You will see this face, you will never lose your face, do not worry, I ask you to accept my position."
Finally they did it in a voice vote. It is not clear when an election will be held.
Sheikh Ahamd has developed a strong power base since taking over ANOC as interim president in 2012.
Its power rests in smaller countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Many of the delegates came to his defense on Wednesday in a cavernous meeting room at a hotel in downtown Tokyo.
No ANOC member from North America or Europe spoke publicly on their behalf.
His supporters, from Morocco, Sudan, Iraq, Peru and Papua New Guinea, to name a few, said their court case was a personal matter. And they also said that he is innocent until proven guilty.
"You must have the presumption of innocence, and we do not believe what is happening in this game," said Nasser Majali, secretary general of the Jordanian National Olympic Committee. "Sheikh has our respect and friendship for the excellence he has brought to ANOC."
Maxwell De Silva, secretary general of Sri Lanka, asked the sheikh to stand for re-election and then step aside if he wanted. He said that ANOC "was a corpse" until the sheikh took over.
"This is a personal problem, it has nothing to do with sports," De Silva told his delegates. "He has done a tremendous job raising the profile of ANOC in the world."
The IOC has published a document from its own ethics commission written last week that evaluates the case of forgery and a possible sentence of five years in prison.
The Sheikh's trial is expected to begin in the first half of next year.
The IOC ethics committee is also under scrutiny.
The commission is chaired by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. Meanwhile, the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens has an IOC employee on its board of directors, the IOC Director General, Christophe De Kepper.
It is also reported that the Ban Ki-Moon center is receiving funding from the governments of Kuwait and Austria.
Ban has withdrawn from Sheikh Ahmad's case.
The general assembly of ANOC also saw presentations for the 2026 Winter Olympic in Stockholm and the Italian association of Milan and Cortina. They are the only candidates after Calgary withdrew earlier this month.
The IOC will choose the venue next year.
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