“I do not believe in perpetuating a position or in remaining forever tied to an armchair,” he told Clarín, while proposing a reform to the statute that generates internal discussion.
“Ladies and gentlemen, before starting to discuss the issues in question, I want to communicate a personal decision that I have made: I am not running for a new term as president of the Argentine Olympic Committee. I want to see a modern COA, with young people. We must empower those who come and I will be a soldier who will continue to fight for the good of the athletes ”. With these words, Gerardo Werthein announced this Wednesday afternoon to the members of the Executive Council of the COA that in August or September 2021 they will have to elect a new president. And the bomb just exploded.
He thought about it for a couple of months, as if to assess the consequences well. In silence, with the pillow. And when you made the decision, he felt liberated. Without reproaches. What he did not calculate is that such news would disturb the almost 70 participants of the virtual meeting, who first gasped and then asked him to reconsider and continue. After all, there is no regulatory impediment.
“With what moral authority can I re-present myself if what I want is to empower young people? I do not want to look like any leader from the past but to be someone who thinks about the future. I don’t believe in perpetuating yourself in office or in being tied to an armchair forever. I dream of the COA becoming a place where athletes are more represented ”, Werthein tells Clarion shortly after the news that shook the Argentine Olympism.
The powerful 64-year-old businessman, related to the sport thanks to horsemanship, came to the head of the Committee in 2009 after the resignation of Julio Cassanello, in a vote that beat Alicia Masoni de Morea by 34 to 24. He was reelected in 2013 and 2017, and if he had wanted, he would surely have continued for one more period. But he preferred to step aside and now there will be a year to build the sequence.
“Twelve years is enough time in charge of the COA and now another has to come. If I stay, I would not be doing what I think should be done in this institution. Nobody can claim the fact of being the only one. The cemetery is full of essentials ”, he explains, knowing that he would not have opposition.
“My principles are above my rights. Moreover, in the draft new statute of the COA, which must be analyzed by the federations, I propose that the president can exercise during a maximum of three consecutive periods, as in the International Olympic Committee. And then he can’t be president again ”, Werthein clarifies.
The debates over the proposed new statute will be arduous, because there are several issues at stake, which cause considerable controversy, especially among traditionalist members, for whom being a member of the COA is a symbol of status. The age limitation to hold office (75 years) is a question that generates harshness. “The merit to occupy a position should not be age but what you do for the sport,” explains Werthein.
And a decisive issue that the federations will analyze is the proposal for narrow the gender gap in charges. Werthein encourages that four of the eleven members of the COA Executive Board should be women, when today there is only Vice President Masoni de Morea. Furthermore, the athletes must be represented, according to this project, by a man and a woman.
“I want to promote a change towards a more modern world by example. This project would not have been good if I stayed as president. Steve Jobs is dead and that was important. I feel like I did the right thing, because inertia leads you to want to stay forever. But I don’t withdraw, huh. I’m going to work like crazy alongside whoever leads in pursuit of the athletes, ”says Werthein, who as a member of the IOC will have a guaranteed place on the Executive Board.
“It is not that I am leaving the COA for my role in the IOC, but rather that I think ahead with a deeply democratic vision. It must be renewed. People have to join and the management has to happen to be in a young team“, Add.
As he could find out Clarion, Werthein caught everyone in the virtual meeting by surprise. And there was even astonishment in the IOC offices in Lausanne, where he took care to warn, listen to insistence and reaffirm his commitment.
Ni Mario Moccia, general secretary of the COA, vice president of Panam Sports and who could be the natural successor de Werthein, knew of this decision made. There were some who insisted on the president to rethink it. There was no case. And some athletes were concerned about the future.
It is logical. Athletes see in Werthein a businessman as passionate as he is skilled at getting into the mud with the political thread that led to the creation of the National High Performance Sports Agency (ENARD), vital for supporting athletes and underfunded from the government budget by Mauricio Macri. Due to his decision not to continue in charge of the COA, when there is another president he could continue on the ENARD board, but he could no longer be its incumbent.
“It is very good, because if it does not seem that the ENARD is mine when it belongs to the athletes and we are occasional administrators. I will be a guardian so that they do not make tricks and that politics do not get involved”, He says.
Of course, also the power accumulated by the success of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games and his election as a member of the IOC Executive Committee imposed respect and in some cases fear in some athletes, who sometimes if not to say “no” they made sporting decisions that did not favor them. His word was always heard as decisive, no matter how much the leader believes in teamwork. Power is like that.
“I feel like I’m going to miss this, but I did something that’s really cool. I will leave a surplus COA, with debts and with reserves, because that is how I handled it – he adds -. I don’t want to be a president who stays in an institution for his whole life. The COA is not a political concession but rather it is the one that manages the Olympic sport in the country. I will be the guardian so that things continue to be done well and there is transparency ”.