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Backlash grows against anti-IOC rebel leader

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Marius Vizer- iocSOCHI, Russia, April 22 – Fallout from an explosive dispute between a sports baron and IOC president Thomas Bach grew Tuesday as more federations froze contacts with the rebellion leader.

But Marius Vizer, head of SportAccord, an umbrella group of 107 sports federations, refused to back down, blasting what he called the “cardinals of sport” at the IOC.

Vizer, also president of the International Judo Federation, has faced growing isolation since his attack on Bach and the IOC at the SportAccord annual congress in Sochi on Monday.

The Association of Summer Olympic Federations suspended its membership of SportAccord on Tuesday, following the withdrawal of the governing bodies of athletics, shooting and archery.

The International Paralympic Committee also withdrew as an associate member of SportAccord, whose annual convention is one of the biggest events on the sporting business and political calendar.

All are protesting over Vizer’s stunning attack on Bach at the opening of SportAccord’s convention.

But Vizer renewed his criticism and said the IOC was pressuring federations to withdraw from SportAccord.

“The question is to clean up the system and to make it fair for the benefit of sport. Not a system that defends itself and a specific group or leaders or cardinals of sport,” Vizer said on the Euronews television channel.

“We don’t need cardinals of sport. We don’t need popes.”

IOC president Bach was a special guest at the convention when he heard Vizer slam his reforms of the IOC and the creation of a new Olympic television channel.

Vizer accused Bach of seeking to block his attempts to organise multi-games sporting events and demanded more power for sporting federations. SportAccord’s members are federations inside and outside the Olympics.

“The IOC system is expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent,” said Vizer, who has led the group since 2013.

Bach flatly rejected Vizer’s demands before leaving Sochi while other key sports leaders defended the IOC.

– Loyalty pledge –

“In my more than 30 years experience, this has never happened,” Wu Ching-Kuo, president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) told AFP. Wu was one more than 25 federation leaders to sign a letter condemning Vizer’s remarks.

“SportAccord, from our point of view, is essentially a place where people meet, talk and so on. So if we are going to be challenged for our loyalty, our loyalty will always be to the Olympic movement,” said International Cycling Union president Brian Cookson.

“Mr Vizer can expect the full force of the IOC to come down on him,” said another senior Olympic leader, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

But not everyone condemned Vizer outright.

The Association of Winter Olympic International Federations expressed “disagreement” with Vizer’s comments but called for “constructive dialogue” between SportAccord and the Olympic movement.

Russia has made an agreement with SportAccord to host its convention for the next four years. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the government wanted good relations with both sides.

“We have long term and stable relations with the International Olympic Committee,” Mutko said.

But he added that SportAccord “is at the beginning of its active effort and work” helping federations and proposing new events such as the Mind Games, for sports such as chess, and the Combat Games.

“So we are in good relations with them as well and we are going to support them,” the minister said calling for “mutual understanding” to end the dispute.

Some officials say Vizer is angry at Bach because the IOC stopped Olympic candidate cities from making bid presentations at the convention.

Vizer’s proposal to hold a United World Games with several sports in turn infuriated the IOC, though the plan has never got off the drawing board.

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