Tuesday, 13 October 2009

New books: Crown Prince Frederik and the IOC

On the final day of the 121st IOC Session and 13th Olympic Congress in Copenhagen on Friday Crown Prince Frederik was elected a member of the IOC with 77 votes against 9. The Crown Prince’s candidature to a politicized organisation with a dubious reputation has been the subject of much criticism and debate in the Danish media, culminating in an article in Information on Friday in which the author and journalist Trine Villemann called for the Crown Prince to renounce his right to the throne if elected to the IOC: http://www.information.dk/206666
A few weeks ago the many newspaper articles were joined by an entire book on the topic, titled Frederik og flammen – Prinsen der ville lege med den olympiske ild (“Frederik and the Flame: The Prince Who Wanted to Play with the Olympic Fire”) by Lars Jørgensen, a journalist who has covered sports politics for Politiken, Ekstra Bladet and DR. The fact that the author is more familiar with the world of sports than the world of royalty can clearly be seen through a confused terminology, such as referring to ex-King Konstantinos’s wife as “Princess Anne-Marie” and describing Crown Prince Frederik throughout as “vice-regent” of Denmark.
But in fact the book deals more with the IOC than with Crown Prince Frederik. The story of his Olympic dreams is told, taking us back to 1998 when a suggestion that the Crown Prince should be a candidate for the IOC failed to gather the necessary support. We then get a detailed account of the scandals engulfing the IOC in recent years (corruption and drugs are at the centre), the reform work carried out in its wake, Juan Antonio Samaranch’s fascist background and the story of the two latest Danish IOC members.
Jørgensen also addresses the problems Crown Prince Frederik will be faced with as an IOC member who, because of his royal position, cannot get involved in political issues. All in all it seems quite clear that the author, like most other commentators, finds the whole thing a bad idea.
However, as Jørgensen points out, there are several other royal members of the IOC – in fact approximately 10 % of the IOC members are royal. With that in mind I think it would have been interesting if the author had taken a closer look at how these royals are dealing with some of those problems Crown Prince Frederik are expected to meet.
Princess Anne of Britain could be a case study and, even more relevant, Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands who as an IOC member who is also heir to the throne of a European kingdom is in the exact same position as Crown Prince Frederik now finds himself in. Lars Jørgensen mentions it, but does not really delve into it. On the other hand Politiken last Thursday had an interesting article about just that: http://politiken.dk/sport/article804509.ece
Crown Prince Frederik is not the first member of the Danish royal family to sit in the IOC; Prince Axel did so between 1931 and 1958 (and was succeeded by his niece’s husband, Ivar Vind). Lars Jørgensen mentions Prince Axel’s opposition to boycotting the art competition held with the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 as an example of a royal member of the IOC becoming entangled in political issues, but again a closer look at Prince Axel’s IOC career might have added some interesting points to this book.

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