The Slovenia Times

Photo Finish Looming in Race for Olympic Committee Boss


Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković, OKS vice-president Bogdan Gabrovec and Olympic silver-medallist Andraž Vehovar are engaged in neck-and-neck battle to replace Janez Kocijančič, who has held the post of OKS president since the committee was launched in 1991.

Mostly ceremonial and lacking a professional pay package, the post still carries significant weight due to the role of the OKS as the umbrella sports body in the country which helps guide the work of various association and engages stakeholders on key issues related to sport in the country.

The outcome will therefore be closely watched by the country's top athletes, who expect the position to be filled by a charismatic leader capable of securing financing for sport and standing up for the interests of professional and amateur athletes alike.

Among the key issues for them is regulating the status of top-flight athletes, many of whom are employed by the state as a stop-gap solution to provide them with financial security, and a retirement scheme.

The associations are meanwhile looking for the OKS president to strengthen the financial backbone of sports, as many are struggling with money, by increasing sponsorship and state funding. With a significant chunk of steady financing coming from taxes on sports betting, a key issue is regulating foreign online betting sites.

The candidates have had nearly a month to present their credentials and ideas to sports associations, which will have the final say through delegates appointed to represent their interests at Tuesday's general assembly.

Due to the large number of associations, the complex voting system and secret ballots, the outcome is thought to be largely unpredictable and the candidates have scrambled to secure support among key voices in Slovenian sport.

The last candidate to join the race, the 61-year-old Janković has shaken-up the race with political savvy aimed at exploiting the weaknesses of his opponents and highlighting his own accomplishments as a former executive and current mayor of a city which invests heavily in sport.

Entering as the favourite, the 61-year-old Gabrovec was widely seen as the natural choice to succeed Kocijančič, having acted as his vice-president in the past term. But lacking the political clout of Janković, he has stumbled somewhat in recent weeks despite a successful tenure as president of the Slovenian Judo Association.

Emerging as the biggest enigma in the race is Vehovar, the 42-year-old former canoeist, considered by many to be an outsider whose votes will be needed by the winner in an eventual second round. Yet Vehovar has established himself as an alternative as the two front-runners have targeted each other.

A projection carried by the daily Delo at the start of the month predicted a second round would be unavoidable, as neither Gabrovec nor Janković will be able to secure victory in the first round. With Gabrovec picking up 42% against Janković's 33%, the 25% of delegates who are projected to back Vehovar would prove crucial for the winner.

However, since the survey was carried out on around 54% of the delegates, Janković is widely believed to have notched away at Gabrovec's advantage by arguing that he would be better at bringing in money and even snaring some of the vice-president's biggest backers among sports officials. Vehovar has meanwhile looked to grab the middle ground.

The outcome thus remains very much cloudy. With the winner needing an absolute majority of the 145 delegates, it is all but certain that a run-off featuring the top two candidates from the first round will be needed, but it could also happen that neither candidate wins an absolute majority in the second round if some of the delegates decide to abstain.

In such a scenario, an acting president will need to be elected by the OKS assembly to take care of day-to-day business and call a new vote within three months. The bidding process for a full-fledged president will then be repeated from scratch.

Whoever emerges as the winner faces a tall order to fill the vacancy left behind by Kocijančič, a long-time ski official who is credited with building Slovenian Olympic sports from scratch into a perennial top-five finisher when measured by medals per capita.

Under his watch, the country has won 34 medals at summer and winter Games, including a record haul of eight medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year.


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