CEOs vying for IOC posts
9 seats for ‘sports diplomats’ to be filled during London Olympics
By Lee Hyo-sik
Heads of large business groups stake their prides over who captures larger market shares here and establish a stronger foothold overseas. But these days, some CEOs, who call themselves as ``sports diplomats,’’ are battling hard on another frontier to gain a highly prestigious membership to an elite group of International Olympics Committee (IOC) members.
According to industry sources, Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Hanjin Group, and Kim Jae-yeol, president of Samsung Engineering, have been competing to secure Korea’s spot to bid for IOC membership since the two became vice president of the Korean Olympics Committee (KOC) in February.
Additionally, Kang Young-joong, founder of Daekyo Group, the country’s largest education firm, who has been chairing the World Badminton Federation (WBF) since 2005. Many sports insiders have said Kang wants to give a shot at the IOC spot.
But he will likely face stiff competition from SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won who heads the Korea Handball Federation. Chey, reportedly be interested in an IOC seat, is now trying to become the chief of the International Handball Federation. If he succeeds in doing so, he can seek Korea’s backing for his bid to become an IOC member.
Currently, Korea has only two IOC members; Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and Olympics gold medalist Moon Dae-sung. Lee, one of the world’s richest men, became the member in 1996 through Samsung’s extensive human networks in the global sporting world. Moon secured one of 15 seats allocated for Olympian sportsmen and women in 2008.
IOC is slated to fill in nine vacant seats in the 115-member IOC during its general congress to be held during the London Olympics, which will kick off on July 27 and continue through Aug. 12.
There are four ways to become an IOC member. Out of 115, 70 spots are normally filled by those who campaign individually without backing from their national governments, while 15 are taken up by heads of international sports federations. Another 15 seats are mostly packed with senior officials of national Olympics committees. Athletes who won Olympics medals account for last remaining 15 spots.
Cho Yang-ho vs Kim Jae-yeol
Both Cho and Kim were selected as vice presidents of the Korean Olympics Committee in February. Cho has been heading the Korea Table Tennis Association since 2008, while Kim has been chairing the Korea Skating Union.
KOC usually recommends only one among its senior officials as a candidate for an IOC membership. Cho, who has been at the forefront of Korea’s sports diplomacy, served as the chairman of PyeongChang 2018 Bid Committee, helping the nation secure the rights to host the 2018 Winter Olympics at the small rural town in Gangwon Province.
Hanjin Group also operates professional table tennis and volleyball teams, as well as offer sponsorship for a range of professional and amateur sporting events.
``The chairman has built an extensive network with IOC members through his involvement in Korea’s efforts to host the 2018 Winter Olympics,’’ a Korean Air executive said. ``Early this month, he went to Moscow to attend a gathering of IOC members.’’
But the executive said Cho has never mentioned about whether he wants to be part of IOC or not.
Meanwhile, Kim, husband of Lee Seo-hyun, the second daughter of Samsung Group leader Lee, has been attracting keen public attention after accompanying Chairman Lee whenever he attends high-profile global sports events over the past few years.
For instance, Kim accompanied Lee to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics together and Durban IOC congress in 2011, raising speculations that he may inherit his father-in-law’s extensive global networks in the international sports communities.
Kang Young-joong vs Chey Tae-won
With Korea normally rooting for only one candidate for 15 seats allocated for those who head international sports bodies, Daekyo Group Chairman Kang is said to have led the pack. He has been serving as chairman of the World Badminton Federation since 2008.
But he is certain to face challenge from SK Group Chairman Chey who seeks to take over the helm of the World Handball Federation. Since elected as the head of the Korea Handball Federation in 2008, Chey has been extending support to the national handball team to help it better perform in the Olympics and other global sporting events.
SK group also invested 43.4 billion won ($40 million) to build the Olympic Handball Gym, which was completed last October.
``Chey has never publicly spoken about whether he wants to be an IOC member. Media outlets and sports insiders have raised such speculation but there is nothing we can do to stop them from doing so,’’ a SK Group spokesman said.
He said the SK Chairman has and will do everything he can to improve infrastructures for handball and turn it into one of sports loved by the public.
Similarly, a Daekyo Group spokesman said for its chairman Kang to bid for an IOC seat in July, he should have already begun the bidding process. ``But there has been no such movement. We are not sure either whether he will go for the post in future IOC meetings unless the chairman says its intention publicly.’’
Additionally, it has been speculated that Choue Chung-won, who has been heading the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) since June 2005, and Park Sang-ha, the president of the International Soft Tennis Federation ISTF), could enter the race for a bidding spot for a IOC seat in July.