IAAF Election Re-run Provides Reprieve for Bubka

August 25, 2011

Sergey Bubka kept his place as vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), along with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, having earlier in the day thought his vice-presidency position was to be taken away from him after receiving the lowest votes.

The vote had been re-run after technical problems with the electronic voting system had emerged earlier in the day at the world governing body’s Congress during the election for the treasurer.

Following what IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss described as “crisis talks” during the lunch break, the electronic system was abandoned and a manual method used instead.

But only after there had been a further delay when a photocopier being used to prepare voting papers broke down.

Each of the 200 countries was then called up one-by-one to cast their votes into the ballot box.

In the first go Bubka had polled only 118 of the 199 votes in the election for the vice-president and was the one out of the five candidates who failed to get one of the four places.

The Ukrainian had trailed Qatar’s Dahlan Jumman Al Hamad and Canada’s Abby Hoffman, who both got 175, the United States’ Bob Hersh with 171 and Coe, with 167.

Even after it was held again, confusion continued with the scrutineers initially having to try to reconcile a discrepancy of two votes and needed to do a recount, which took nearly an hour.

In the end Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion and world-record holder, who is considered the rising star of sports administration, had his political ambitions rekindled by scraping through as the fourth of the five candidates.

The biggest loser in the re-run was Hoffman, who polled only 122 votes in the second ballot, which was topped by Hersh with 175. Hamad got 171 and Coe 169, with Bubka receiving 159. A total of 201 votes were cast with two being invalid.

At the previous election in Osaka four years ago Bubka had finished top of the poll in the same election and been appointed as the senior vice-president.

Diack, contrary to what he had said earlier, did call for a re-run of his own election even though he was the only candidate.

On this occasion, he polled 169 votes with 29 against out of the 198 valid votes cast.

It was hardly a day when the IAAF reinforced its claim to be the number one Olympic sport and showed that it was a forward-thinking organisation.

But Diack claimed it had no reason to feel ashamed.

“I’m not embarrassed by the election,” he said.

“Technology has failed us and we had to go back to manual voting. This was just a technical glitch and we just have to live with it.”

Others were less forgiving of the situation.

“I’ve won General Elections and I’ve lost General Elections in about a quarter of the time,” said Coe.

The person with the most reason to complain was Hoffman, who thought she had been elected as the IAAF’s first female vice-president only to have it snatched away at the last second.

“The whole election process was a pretty messy affair,” she told insidethegames.

The 64-year-old Canadian 1966 Commonwealth Games 880 yards champion and former director general of Sports Canada did not buy into the theory that she had only been elected initially thanks to problems with the electronic voting system.

“Whatever the dynamics was underpinning the elections in the morning, when I had enough votes to be elected, it was a completely different dynamic in the afternoon,” she said.

“The reality is that the one [election] in the afternoon was the one that counted.

“But I’m not happy obviously about how things unfolded during the day.”

Hoffman believes that once reality set in among the delegates that they had voted in a woman ahead of such a high-profile figure as Bubka it led to a change of mind.

“Some people could say that the idea of having a female vice-president seemed like a good idea but when the prospect of it became a reality it wasn’t so appealing,” she said.

“I lost over 50 votes between the morning and the afternoon – was that the result of technical issues or something more that went on?

“But I think it’s quite clear to everybody that Sergey Bubka, having been the odd man out in the morning, pulled out all the stops to get himself back in position.

“But he still ended up with the lowest votes of all the candidates so I think there was something definitely going on there that was nothing to do with the computer system.”

Hoffman admitted that the whole day had bought Athletics into disrepute.

“I feel worse just in terms of the reputation of the sport we couldn’t pull off a proper election campaign,” she said.

“That’s not a pretty picture for us.”

Diack must now turn his attention to the difficult task of who to appoint as his senior vice-president.

He knows that if he chooses either Coe, the former double Olympic 1500 metres champion, or Bubka he will be seen to have anointed them as his successor for when he steps down in 2015.A decision is likely at the next meeting of the IAAF’s ruling Council on September 4 at the end of the World Championships.