Keir RadnedgeThe day after Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United so Thomas Bach announced his intention to stand for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee. 

No obvious connection. The coverage reflected the popular chasm of concern. Ferguson’s imminent handover to David Moyes devoured acres of print and screen space and oceans of airwaves; Bach was granted mere polite acknowledgement in the corners of the specialist outlets.

Nothing more.

Several Olympic intimates harrumphed grumpily that here was an illustrative example of how the media had skewed the values of sport within society.

They viewed the forthcoming election of the latest Lord of the Rings as of supremely more importance to the world at large than the identity of the next (probably more transient) manager of one single football club.

On face of it the case is inarguable; not even a discussion point.

It’s a given: like the sky is blue.

Yet the sky is not blue; it’s a trick of the light.

Similarly I have yet to see sports-mad youngsters in Chile or China or Chad wearing shirts branded “IOC” or “Olympic Games.” I have yet to see a sports shirt with “Rogge” emblazoned proudly across the shoulders.

The Olympic Games is a magnificent revenue-raising machine and the IOC a practised event organiser dressed up in fine words and even finer platitudes.

But it has a connection problem. Jacques Rogge knows it. He also knows now that fixing it may be a lost cause. He thought the Youth Olympic Games would be the vehicle. His IOC colleagues went along with that to humour him. But they continue to sneer. So do veteran journalists far more deeply and loyally embedded in the Olympic movement than this one.

Bach is but one of a half dozen candidates for the role of IOC president. They will be indivisible on the themes of sporting corruption, doping, transparency and fair play.

Rogge has suggested that the president should be a paid appointment. I asked Bach his opinion. He snapped back by far the shortest answer of his campaign launch interview; he would be a volunteer like every other president so far.

So the elite amateur: still adhering to the old saw that gentlemen must know best.

This is not to denigrate Bach. Respect to him for such professional success that he may carve eight (or if re-elected 12) years out of the real world without worrying about the provenance of his family’s next crust.

In this one happily innocent response the chasm between the IOC and the real world began to yawn open.

Sport’s march towards today’s monetised matrix of event plus television plus sponsor was kicked off by Joao Havelange’s Dassler-driven ascension to the FIFA presidency in 1974. A happy coincidence of the subsequent technological revolution ramped up the ‘brand’ value to levels beyond incredulity.

The IOC followed suit. So did individual sports federations. Similarly their competitions and clubs. England’s Premier League set the trend in its own sphere and Manchester United maximised that commercial outreach around the world and back again.

Like it or not Manchester United are all over every single media platform every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year.

Including the occasional four weeks comprising the totality of the summer and winter Olympic Games.

When United players turn on the virtuosity or the villainy so kids all around the world mimic them the next day.

That is power through sport. That is influence. That is connecting with the youth of the world. That is the fulfilment of Pierre de Coubertin’s dream.

When the Olympic movement can say the same then it will have started to tap into its own rich potential. In the meantime David Moyes is closer to the world’s sporting patrimony than any of the IOC presidential candidates preparing to do battle up amid the clouds of Olympia.

By Keir Radnedge

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