Is the IOF governed by the Rule of Law?

On 1 July the IOF General Assembly will vote on the confirmation of the indefinite suspension of the Russian and Belorussian Orienteering Federations by the IOF Council.

In this suspension process, the IOF Council violated the Statutes, the Code of Ethics, and several core principles of due process required in civilized democratic environments. The IOF Ethics Panel helped this process by turning a blind eye to the violation of the Code of Ethics by the Council. This case gave a feeling of elements of historic lynching exercised in the US South and feudal despotism, but not of a democratic process of the civilized world.

Will the General Assembly approve the multiple, deliberate, and blatant violations of the Statutes and the Code of Ethics by the Council? Or will it stand up for the Rule of Law within the IOF?

Of course, it may well happen that the “It was not nice but necessary for justice” attitude will prevail. The same attitude that drove the supporters of lynchings in the US South and the hardcore Putinistas in their justification of the “special military operations”.

One may just hope that the IOF Member Federations do better and stand up for the Rule of Law on 1 July.

The suspensions

On 24 February Putin started a despicable war against Ukraine in violation of international laws and normal conduct amongst civilized societies.

On 28 February the IOF Council suspended indefinitely the Russian Federation and on 4 March the Belorussian Federation, though it had no right to do so according to the Statutes at the time (see Council Minutes 211). They could have imposed only temporary limitations until the General Assembly decided on the matter.

In addition, the IOF letter sent to the Russian Federation indicated that the Council also violated the IOF Code of Ethics by making a decision on “non-compliance with the IOF Code of Ethics”.

Only the IOF Ethics Panel has the right to make such a decision. The Statutes do not give any right to the Council to decide on that.

Below, I detail some of the most blatant violations of the IOF rules and general due process by the Council.

Continue reading “Is the IOF governed by the Rule of Law?”

103% support for the IOF Council

33 of the 32 registered delegates supported the Statue Amendments proposed by the IOF Council at the Extraordinary General Assembly on 25 March 2022. This 103% approval is a remarkable achievement considering the additional 6 against and 4 abstaining votes, according to the Official Minutes of the EGA. (also on pages 29-34 of the Agenda and Background Papers of the XXXI Ordinary General Assembly) This remarkable voting record means that the 2/3 majority required for the changes of the Statutes has been achieved. The authenticity of the Minutes shall be above doubt, as it was signed by the President of the IOF, the Secretary General, and the Chairman of the EGA.

The key voting result in the official EGA Minutes
All the signatures that confirm the validity of the EGA Minutes
Appendix 1 – Attendance Details of the EGA

On 1 July, the Member Federations present in the Ordinary General Assembly shall vote to approve the minutes of the EGA with the above voting record. One may contemplate what could happen during that meeting.

In an organization with strong governance ethics, one may expect the rejection of the self-contradictory EGA minutes. Consequently, that would mean that the Amendments of the Status are not approved. Thus, the leadership would be required to call another EGA to discuss and approve any proposed amendments. (assuming their statutes are similar to that of the IOF, which categorically prohibits the inclusion of Statute Amendments as an urgent business – see Section 7.6 of the old and Section 7.3 of the questionable new Statues). There might be even questions raised about whether the leadership that signed and published such minutes has the right attitude to lead the organization.

In the IOF, it would not be surprising if the Member Federations would approve the above nonsensical EGA Minutes without even blinking. The IOF Leadership may point out that not all the details of the signed Minutes shall be taken seriously, only the ones the IOF Council deems necessary. The Member Federations, well accustomed to the no-consequence culture of the IOF, would happily oblige. After all, this is IOF business, as usual.

Of course, the Member Federations may choose to show an even higher level of support for the IOF Council. It would be a nice demonstration of the strength and unity of the IOF, and the true sporting spirit of orienteers, if on the GA an even higher proportion, say 110% of the registered voters, would approve the EGA Minutes.

The Olympic Dream – lost without a trace

The Olympic Dream was the guiding light of the IOF for decades. It was the driving force for many activities, and a substantial amount of money was spent to chase the Dream. It is still part of the Competition Rules in the form of the Leibnitz Convention. The IOF President has repeatedly confirmed his commitment to pursuing the Olympic Dream.

“Foot Orienteering has a chance and ski orienteering has a realistic chance to be a part of the Olympic Games program”.

Leho Haldna, IOF President (2016)

Yet, in 2022 the Olympic Dream was lost without a trace in the Strategic Directions proposed to the General Assembly by the IOF Council led by the same President. Not a single reference to the Olympics even in the proposed Strategic Initiatives (see pages p164-170 in the General Assembly Agenda)

IOF Strategic Directions 2023-2026

Compare this to the strategic directions of 2019-2022, where the Main Goal was clearly anchored in the Olympic Dream.

The complete abandonment of the Olympic Dream is a 180-degree change of direction. This is the most significant change in our sport since the IOF decided to award World Championship titles – in the name of Olympic ambitions – to winners of D class street races, in addition to the mentally and physically toughest endurance athletes in the World.

Although there were hints at the last Presidents’ Conference that there could be changes in the Strategic Directions, the haste of complete abandonment of the Olympic Dream is stunning. It is probably best illustrated by the 2022 nomination of one of the IOF’s Vice Presidents (who used to represent Turkey, then Russia, and is now nominated again by Turkey for obvious reasons). As one of the Top 4 in the IOF Council, she firmly declares in her application that “I strongly believe that Orienteering deserves to be in Olympic Games and I hope to be able to make it true.” (p186 of the Agenda and Background Papers) Apparently, things happened so fast that even the IOF Vice President did not realize that the Olympic Dream was dead in the water.

Despite the radical change initiated by themselves, the IOF Leadership keeps a low and silent public profile like a cow drop in tall grass. Not a public word why chasing the Olympic Dream is no longer a good direction. Not a word about the potentially numerous implications of this change on the further development of our sport. Not a word about why the complete abandonment was necessary, not only putting it on the back burner for a while.

Personally, I am happy to hear that the IOF stops the pointless waste of money and volunteer time to pursue this pie-in-the-sky dream. I resigned as the Chair of the MTBO Commission in December 2016 when the IOF Council decided that each discipline commission shall evaluate its progress annually against some hazy Olympic criteria. The IOF Leadership could not give a fine thought to imposing pointless work on volunteers in the name of the Olympic Dream.

It is most interesting when pretty much the same Council (same President, 2 of the 3 Vice Presidents, 7 of the 11 members) suddenly makes a 180-degree turn and pretends as if the Olympic Dream was never there. A remarkable achievement of change of strategic direction that is only comparable to the smartest East European Communists who embraced capitalism and democracy overnight in 1990 just to stay in power.

In the context of this radical change of strategic direction, the silence of the IOF Leadership is a clear message to all orienteering volunteers around the world: it is not your business which way they steer your favorite sport.

Continue reading “The Olympic Dream – lost without a trace”