New chief elected amid split

The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) elected a new president and board yesterday in an electoral procedure marred by fierce political fighting between the ruling conservative New Democracy party and opposition PASOK socialists for control of the powerful committee. As had been anticipated, Minos Kyriakou, a shipowner and owner of Antenna TV and radio – and also an International Athletics Federation (IAAF) member – was overwhelmingly elected as the HOC’s new chief with 23 votes from 26 cast. Both major political parties had backed Kyriakou as their joint candidate for the HOC’s top job, but wrangling broke out over an attempt by both sides to maximize their control of the executive committee. The trouble peaked last Monday when most voters affiliated with the opposition PASOK party refused to take part in the HOC’s elections after citing foul play by the rival party. The elections were brought forward from last Monday’s original date when 12 PASOK-affiliated voters – of a total of 36 – refused to participate in reaction to the establishment of four new federations, all offshoots of an umbrella federation governing ice sports. The four federations – for ice skating, bobsled, luge and curling – represent sports that are virtually non-existent in this country. The opposition party’s absentees argued that the four federations were founded and led by New Democracy-affiliated officials to secure more votes for greater control of the HOC’s executive committee. The right to vote at HOC elections, held every four years, is reserved for federation presidents, the HOC president and IOC members. The leaders of the four newly established federations did not attend yesterday’s vote, which, in effect, enabled the elections to proceed. A day earlier, the group of four had released a joint statement declaring their absences «to facilitate the proceedings.» The HOC’s outgoing chief, Lambis Nicolaou, a PASOK-affiliated official who served as the committee’s chief between 1985 and 1993, and was then re-elected in 1997, prompted an IOC investigation into the issue after reporting alleged violations in a letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge. In response, the IOC chief decided IOC Director of National Olympic Committees Pete Miro would travel to Athens to investigate Nicolaou’s claims. Miro was initially expected to arrive either on time for yesterday’s vote or today. But, late last night, an HOC spokesman told Kathimerini English Edition that the official would not be in Athens until next week. The PASOK party has threatened to take legal action over the splinter federations. The IOC’s investigation will focus on whether procedures were followed to ensure that eligible people took part in the vote. Besides representing the country which founded the ancient Games and hosted the first modern Olympics, the HOC is also responsible for the torch-lighting ceremony in Olympia ahead of every summer and winter Games.

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