Critical review of Dick Pound's new book

Higher, faster, stronger, corrupter


  Inside the Olympics:

  A Behind-the-Scenes Look

  at the Politics, the Scandals,

  and the Glory of the Games

  By Dick Pound

  Wiley, 288 pages, $34.99

  This is a big and tangled book. Thematically, the book ranges across

many issues in the Olympic Games, from the challenges of the upcoming 2004
Athens games, to corruption in judging, to doping, to politics and
terrorism, to human rights, to sponsorship and commercialism, to television
rights, to selecting Olympic host cities, to issues of leadership.

  Chronologically, Inside the Olympics spans from the ancient Olympic

Games of 760 BC to today. The focus, of course, is on the years that
Montreal lawyer and former Olympic swimmer Dick Pound has been involved in
the Olympic movement, first as an athlete in the Rome Games in 1960, through
his 25 years as a member of the International Olympic Committee up until his
current role as founding chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency. And look
at the transformations in the Olympic movement that were covered in that
period: In the 1960s, the IOC was next to bankrupt, and the Olympic Games
embodied the naive idealism of the leisured monied class and amateur
athletes. Since then, there has been the horror of the assassinations at the
1972 Munich Games; the emergence of the IOC as a political and economic
powerhouse; the rising presence of women at the games; and the emergence of
the public phenomenon of doping.

  Pound has had some hand in all of these transformations. His three

greatest endeavours were in the areas of financial support for the games,
anti-doping and Olympic reform. His two greatest achievements are his
significant role in creating the financial foundation grounded in television
and commercial sponsorship that sustains the Olympic movement as an economic
behemoth, and the leadership he committed to the creation of the WADA, the
international effort against doping in sports. The verdict remains out on
Olympic institutional reform.

  To a lesser extent, Pound had his fingers in the other pies, too: a

word here, a conversation there, some pressure brought to bear – whichever
way you slice it, Pound was a player in the Olympic movement and its
transformations over the last 30 years. The successes are not unmitigated.
Commercial sponsorship has indeed laid a secure foundation for the ongoing
stability of the Olympic movement, but its costs may well be cynical
professionalism and rampant commercialism. The World Anti-Doping Agency is
necessary, but is clearly not sufficient. International co-ordination is
required, but the devil lies in the details, as there is still the prospect
that anti-doping efforts could be undermined by a moralism irrelevant to

  The new rules regarding the process for bidding for the games have

curbed the excesses of Olympic tourism, but at the cost of removing access
to the accumulated wisdom of those who know what is required to create
successful games. And crucially, Pound not only lost the election to replace
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, he came in third behind Jacques Rogge
and Kim Un-yong, who has come to symbolize all that is corrupt in the
Olympic movement.

  The breadth and scope of the book lead to its downfall. One longs for

either a thematically structured narrative or a chronologically coherent
story. We are given neither. What we have is a series of interesting but
seemingly randomly connected anecdotes. The thematic unity is that Dick
Pound was there. What we have is a shotgun approach. However, for anyone who
is interested in the Olympic movement, this is still a book well worth
reading. This is particularly so for Canadians, because no other among us
has played such an influential role in the Olympic movement as Pound. The
perspective we get is that of a single man passionately locked in the middle
of debates. And that is both a merit and a weakness. Notwithstanding the
complexity of the science involved in cheating, Pound believes that the
ethics are pretty straightforward. He also sees that that ethical simplicity
and scientific complexity must be reconciled within a context of political
and practical reality. On a multiplicity of issues, Pound’s approach has
been to attempt to steer in an interestingly unprincipled way between the
rocks of Scylla and Charybdis. In this respect, he seems to follow the
example of Samaranch, whose capacity to conduct the realpolitik of sport he

  Throughout the rich tapestry of Pound's long, troubled Olympic

experience, despite his disappointments, despite the personal anguish of
coming third behind Kim Un-yong, the shamed IOC vice-president jailed for 30
months early this month on embezzlement and bribery charges – despite all
of this, Pound is a committed supporter of the Olympic movement. He believes
that the Olympics can get it right, that it can be a bright and shining
beacon of hope in a world where there is far too much darkness. He believes
that the Olympic movement can lead in the fight against racism and sexism,
and the fight for international peace and harmony and the betterment of
humanity through the pursuit of human excellence. And he is right. Dick
Pound has spent the better part of his life trying to make those beliefs a
reality. And for that he is to be commended.

  Angela Schneider is at the University of Western Ontario's

International Centre for Olympic Studies. She is the former director of
ethics and education for the World Anti-Doping Agency and won an Olympic
silver medal in rowing for Canada in the women’s coxed fours at the 1984