UKRAINIAN pole vaulting legend Sergei Bubka has transformed himself into an influential sports politician and he will hope to emerge from this week’s International Olympic Committee Session even stronger.
The 48-year-old, who is the only athlete to have won six successive outdoor world titles, will face re-election to the Executive Board while Juan Antonio Samaranch junior, son of the late long-serving president of the IOC, is also likely to be up for election.
There are two vice-president spots up for grabs with Sir Craig Reedie — a major driving force behind the successful London bid for the Games — likely to be elevated from Board member to one of them.
One of the two vice-president spots became available when Italian Mario Pescante stood down over what he saw as the embarrassment of Rome withdrawing its candidacy for the 2020 Summer Games, the day before the deadline last year, as the government felt it could not offer the relevant financial guarantees.
Bubka is already a member but is keen to maintain his hold on the spot on the Board so as to maintain a high profile presence in sports politics and keep him in a strong position for his ultimate goal, a source close to the IOC said.
“Bubka dearly wants to be president of the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations) and maintaining his position on the Board is of paramount importance,” he said.
Bubka, whose son Sergei junior is forging a career as a professional tennis player, could face quite a fight for that post further down the line as Sebastian Coe is believed to be keen on succeeding Lamine Diack as the president of the IAAF.
Bubka’s position, though, could come under threat because of the fallout from the scandal surrounding Volodymyr Gerashchenko, who had to step down as general secretary of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee this year.
Gerashchenko was exposed trying to tout Olympic Games tickets to a BBC undercover reporter and while he subsequently resigned, he later claimed he had been drunk when he offered the tickets.
Whether Samaranch junior can succeed in getting onto the Board is questionable, though he gained credence with the strong bid made by Madrid for the 2016 Games which surprised many by finishing second to Rio de Janeiro ahead of Tokyo and Chicago.
In the 2020 race they caused a surprise by making the short list when the Executive Board voted in Quebec, Canada, earlier this year.
Others who may gain a seat include Irishman Pat Hickey, who is head of the European Olympic Committee (EOC) and who scored a major coup when a leg of this year’s Torch Relay held in Ireland.
If he is successful he would be the highest ranked member from Ireland since Lord Killanin was president from 1972-80.
Aside from the elections the host cities for the forthcoming Games — from London and up to Pyeongchang in the 2018 Winter edition — will make presentations to the 100+ IOC members during the three-day meeting.