About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Sunday, June 20, 2010


There was no coincidence Clint Eastwood’s film “Invictus” was featured on a recent flight to the Olympic City of Lausanne, Switzerland. The plot features former imprisoned South African President Nelson Mandela using the1995 Rugby World Cup to unify the apartheid-torn country. Rugby was just selected as one of the two newest sports to be included in the 2016 Olympics and the curtain is again rising for South Africa as they stage the 2010 Soccer (Football) World Cup.

Invictus is a reminder of the inescapable political landscape usually apparent in mega sporting events such as the World Cup, Tour de France, and the Olympic Games. South Africa was banned from the Olympics for over three decades [1964 to 1992] for its refusal to condemn apartheid.

Today, geopolitics are alive and well in Cape Town and Johannesburg which serves as a backdrop for the Federation International Football Association’s (FIFA) role in the re-emergence of South Africa as host of the second most watched sporting event on the planet. (In viewing audience, the World Cup ranks just behind the summer Olympics with the Super Bowl close behind.)

The strong connection between sports, globalization, and politics was reinforced during a recent excursion to the southern shoreline city of Lausanne, Switzerland, a country touted for its neutrality and represented in a pool with Honduras, Spain, and Chile in the World Cup.

South Africa is home to baboons and elephants which have twice blocked roadways for Team USA’s tour bus. Lausanne is home to cultural museums, cathedrals, and castles. Most notably, the city is home to the Comite International Olympique (IOC headquarters), the Musee Olympique (Olympic Museum), and the Maison Du Sport International which are corporate offices leased to Sport Federations such as FIFA.

Lausanne’s proximity to France across the shores of Lake Geneva is part of the reason official International Olympic Committee (IOC) reports and broadcasts are always interpreted in French. The fondness for Switzerland, land of the Alps and home of the very best chocolate and fondue, is unprecedented. The predominant French influence can be appreciated in the language, architecture, and regional culinary specialties which makes Lausanne a distinctly unique European locale.

Tiffin University sent delegates to attend a conference at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne hosted by the European Council of Business Education (ECBE). Educators from Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Russia, the Czech Republic, France, Peru, Belgium, Romania, Netherlands, Iceland, and Switzerland joined the entourage from Tiffin University, one of only two North American institutions with ECBE accreditation.

Phillippe Blanchard, Director of Information Management for the IOC, addressed the conference on the technologies of document management and knowledge transformation. Blanchard explained that while a portion of IOC information is considered confidential, some data is classified as top secret which instantly reminded me of KFC’s original chicken recipe and the sitcom “Get Smart” with agent 99 and the silver-haired Chief.

Blanchard’s comments ignited a greater urgency to visit the IOC headquarters and catch a glimpse of a few classified documents. Up close to the headquarters, it was surprising to see a glass corporate-looking building with visible papers and color-coded manila folders stacked on desks and file cabinets. A digital camera captured clear images of the sparsely decorated IOC lobby entrance, but only a dim mirrored reflection appeared when attempting to take photos of what should have been office cubicles and “secret” papers. No doubt, the reflected images were a security measure which thwarted what may have been mistakenly considered an international espionage mission by two curious American tourists.

Security breaches are treated seriously by the IOC which remains on constant watch of global affairs. Informal talks with our Russian colleagues on a steam-paddleboat cruise through the Swiss and French waters of Lake Geneva provided insight into the politics that could affect Sochi’s party in 2014.

During the Olympics, security falls under the responsibility of the local authorities of the host cities who ensure that everything that is humanly possible is done to protect the athletes, the spectators and all the people involved in staging the Games. Politics are a different story.

On the date we first arrived to Switzerland, world news reported that a bomb was detonated in the city of Stavropol wounding more than 40 people and killing seven. Stavropol is adjacent to Sochi, a resort city near the Black Sea and the site of the 2014 Winter Games.

On the date of our departure, a security conference was held in Sochi which focused on the risk of Islamist insurgent groups or Mafia ties that may attempt to derail the Russian Olympics. One can’t forget that the former Soviet Bloc country staged a brief five-day war in the smaller country of Georgia during the tail end of the 2008 Beijing Games.

Other international colleagues praised ECBE on selecting another eastern European country [Budapest, Hungary] as the site of the 2011 conference, especially since the country is undergoing a feasibility study to become a candidate city for hosting the 2020 Olympics. It will be difficult for Budapest to rival the hospitality, beauty, and significance of Lausanne, Switzerland. Much of the conference was catered by the five-star hotel and restaurant, the Beau Rivage in the town of Ouchy(pronounced “Oooo-shay”) which overlooks the snow-topped French Alps.

Incidentally, another five-star hotel in Lausanne maintained the top suite for former IOC President, Don Juan Antonio Samaranch of Barcelona, Spain until he passed away two months ago. In 1980, Samaranch took over a male-only private club that now has 20 women among its 160 delegates – still a far cry from equality. Samaranch also brought more participating female athletes into the Olympics, from 18 percent in his inaugural years to approximately 43 percent today.

Current President Jacque Rogge, however, was the mastermind behind softball being ousted from the Olympics and has threatened to pull women’s hockey, the only true female team sport in the winter Games. Rogge maintains residency at Château de Vidy Case postale 356 1001 in Lausanne, adjacent to the grounds of the IOC headquarters. I was hoping for a conversation with the Count, but no one answered the door.

Stay tune for a continued personal perspective of the Olympic city and an insight into the politics and economics governing the Games. Surly the pending news from World Cup play will provide ample topics for another interesting sport column in July.

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