Showdown between water slides – sport

When the delegates of the World Shooting Federation (ISSF) ponder the future of their sport this Wednesday, they will do so well rested. The ISSF has invited the delegates of its 163 member federations to the Egyptian holiday oasis of Sharm El Sheikh, to the Albatros Palace, with a sandy beach in front of the door and 72,000 square meters spread over five pools, 36 water slides, a discotheque, a jeweler and a hairdresser. Everything you need for a sports congress like this.

While the world is watching a football tournament, with which an emirate also obtains its foreign policy life insurance, an exciting episode from the international sports policy negotiated. Not only is Vladimir Lissin up for re-election here, the allegedly richest man in Russia, and, alongside boxing president Umar Kremlev, the only one in the country to run an Olympic world association. On the ballot paper, if you will, is also how organized sports deal with Russia, which has retained an amazing vitality in sports policy, despite state doping and war of aggression.

Lissin’s steel is also said to be used in the aggressive war against Ukraine – he vehemently denies this

Lissin, said to be worth just under 19 billion euros, once made his fortune in the turmoil of the post-Soviet era, as a steel magnate, and then built a shooting sports center with a luxury hotel and helipad near Moscow. Putin is also said to have shot clay pigeons there. The bond between the two goes even deeper, said Oleg Volkov, head of the Ukrainian Rifle Association, most recently in a letter to Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Lissin is one of the “most important suppliers” of the armaments industry, especially from the armory in Uralvagonzavod. According to Volkov, Lissin’s steel is currently also destroying the lives of Ukrainians. Media and NGO reports have uncovered similar connections in the past, even to the nuclear sector (Lissin denies both). Most recently, however, the 66-year-old was only sanctioned by Australia and Ukraine, not in the USA and Europe, where his company is well networked; its steel is also in German tunnel tubes.

The Italian Luciano Rossi, who lost four votes to Lissin four years ago, has had little trouble positioning himself as an opponent. Lissin’s alleged arms exports are one thing. Since he took office, the ISSF has been governed “autocratically” (which Lissin also rejects). A “large majority”, Rossi recently announced openly, supported his plan to replace Lissin. Only: In world sport, approval does not always reliably show up on the ballot paper.

Lissin, a classic, recently boasted openly about a “development fund” that he personally filled: 93 national associations would have benefited from it, 42 from Europe alone. In the background, there is also the fear in Sharm el-Sheikh that the incumbent might resort to other tools to maintain power. According to an insider, you have to be prepared “for anything”.

The current leadership? “They decide something under the table without following the procedure.”

Despite all the donations and congresses in bathing paradises, Lissin does not seem to have really united the shooting community. A call to Vilshofen’s Willi Grill, someone who has accompanied the Munich-based ISSF through seven Olympic Games, most recently as sports director of the Munich-based world association. He says he has never experienced an administration like Lissin’s. The ISSF Statutes clearly state which routes are to be followed when new formats are decided, rules are monitored and adjusted. The current leadership? “They decide something under the table without following the procedure.” You can see that in the new, inscrutable final formats; often ISSF dignitaries even intervened in the competition, in jury decisions. If you don’t like it, this mood has often hit you, you can go.

The fact is: Hans-Heinrich von Schönfels, President of the German Shooting Federation, recently withdrew from the ISSF Board of Directors. The reason how he the German press agency said: A reply by the world association to a professional protest that, according to the official, “brimmed with audacity and professional ignorance”, “was inappropriate in tone, tact and style”. Willi Grill also only wants to continue in the ISSF if Lisin is voted out. The candidate Rossi, Grill says openly, has promised him the post of general secretary.

Ultimately, Grill emphasizes, it’s not about him, but about a striking episode of abuse of power. The ISSF internal “war”, as Grill calls it, is registered in the IOC, and the Olympic existence is also being jeopardized. And the ISSF depends, in addition to Lissin’s wallet, heavily on the royalties from the IOC.

A query to the ISSF provokes a, well, interesting reply. The decision-making processes are clearly flagged up in the ISSF constitution, which is why you can’t set up an autocracy at all – as if you couldn’t evade taxes either, because the law forbids that. In any case, you follow all the rules and don’t intervene unfairly anywhere. Alexander Ratner, Secretary General of the ISSF, recently underlined this in a letter to the national federations. The new formats put the sport in a better light, the President was available for any debate, and the IOC worked “in a spirit of trust”. And Rossi? He’s instrumentalizing a war to drag Lissin into the dirt. Lissin only produces steel for the civil sector, has called for peace and has passed on one million euros to Ukraine’s “shooting family”.

The IOC apparently knows processes in the association that go far beyond interference with the jury

That’s quite interesting. In fact, Lissin spoke in the newspaper in April Kommersant of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Ukraine, showed understanding for Western sanctions against Russia. Also interesting: that Ratner, the ISSF Secretary General, sent his plea for Lissin on ISSF stationery; it’s even on the association’s website. In many world associations, such partisanship from the main office would – meanwhile – be forbidden. The ISSF? Doesn’t even have a document that regulates how candidates and association staff should behave around elections. She also concedes that when asked: “We believe,” she says, “that the ISSF Secretary General can speak his mind when allegations are made against the ISSF and the elected leadership.”

And the IOC? That remains vague on request, about the letter from the Ukrainian association president and in general. The fact that, according to SZ information, the IOC has knowledge of processes within the ISSF that go far beyond alleged interference with the jury is not denied either. Roughly speaking, the IOC replies that the world associations now enjoy autonomy, and if necessary you can appeal to the Cas sports court.

So this episode is another lesson in Olympic opportunism. For years, the IOC had no problem with how Russia fed world sport, as the organizer, with sponsors and staff. Lissin is still a member of the IOC’s important marketing commission, and this year he also joined the body that deals with commercial partnerships and sources of income. In February, the Executive Board of the IOC recommended its world federations to ban athletes and officials from Russia from “international competitions” – there was no mention of IOC members or commissions. Bach recently leveled the ground again, on which Russia’s athletes and Officials could return to world sport: with the mantra that they were not responsible for the war.

That’s not so easy to determine with the still president of the World Rifle Association and the richest of all Russians.

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