What is the worst job you could possibly have in PR? If you had asked me that question 12 months ago I would have probably have said that being Head of Communications for FIFA would have been a strong contender. The governing body for world football hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when the FBI and the Swiss Police raided their offices amid corruption allegations involving mind boggling sums of money.
Today, I’d have to say that being PR Chief for the International Olympic Committee must be the most thankless task you could possibly think of. The news that many Russian sportsmen and women have been involved in state sponsored doping is bad enough, but the IOC’s indecisive response has only served to make an already bad situation even worse.
I’ve always believed that in a crisis situation the best thing for an organisation to do is to take a clear decision, however unpopular it may be, and stick to it. By sending out a clear message people will at least know where you stand, even if they may not necessarily agree with you.
It seems to me that by leaving the decision on whether or not to ban Russian competitors to the governing bodies of each individual sport, the IOC has chickened out of making a decision. The result is that the public are unclear on where the IOC stands on the issue of state sponsored doping. The IOC’s reputation has been seriously damaged, as has the credibility of the Olympic Games themselves.
It seems a shame that what is supposed to be the greatest sporting event on the planet will open in Rio next week under a huge cloud. It all seems a long way from the high principles of sportsmanship and fair play portrayed in Chariots of Fire.
Of course, there is also the question of what this whole affair does for the reputation of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but that’s another story.