There was a film in the 1980’s called ‘Blame it on Rio’ starring Sir Michael Caine and a young Demi Moore where the city was blamed for making men behave irrationally; in this case the older Michael has an affair with his best friend’s daughter.
There is evidence that Rio can do funny things to people’s thinking, even today.
Last week President of the 2016 Olympic Organising Committee Carlos Nuzman landed in London to promote the Rio Olympics. He was there to put a positive spin on the water pollution, the Zika virus, last minute cost cutting to prevent a budget blow-out, and the fact that ticket sales have been described as “dismal.”
Everything was going pretty well, that was until he revealed that it was the local organising Committee’s intention to invite disgraced former FIFA President Joao Havelange – who swam and played water polo for Brazil at the 1936 Olympics – to celebrate his 100th birthday as ‘a gesture of respect.’
He is quoted as saying that Havelange “was very important in our country.”
This did not go down well.
It is not surprising when in 2011 an IOC ethics committee was announced to investigate claims that Havelange received a bribe of $1 million in connection with the now defunct Swiss Marketing company ISL. Days before the ethics committee was set to happen, Havelange resigned as a member of the IOC, citing health concerns. The investigation was closed, with reports that it would have suspended the membership of Havelange for two years.
ISL was established by former Adidas boss Horst Dassler. The company was strongly associated with FIFA, the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations. When ISL closed its debts were announced as being UKL153million.
Court documents released in 2012 show that two FIFA executives, former president João Havelange and former President of the Brazilian Football Federation and Havelange’s son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, received bribes worth 41m CHF (Just under AUD$55million!) from ISL between 1992 and 2000. As a result Havelange was stripped of his Honorary FIFA Presidency, but due to his age and no longer holding any official position faced no other punishment.
Despite making some changes that benefitted football in his early days as President of FIFA, many believe the corruption started under Havelange’s rein and continued with Blatter. One thing is for sure most sports fans will agree that his name should no longer be used in the same sentence as a word like ‘respect.’
Hopefully Mr Nuzman and his committee will have a rethink about such celebrations by the time the Olympic cauldron is lit.