TOKYO (Reuters) – The Association of National Olympic Committees postponed their presidential election amid farcical scenes on Wednesday in the wake of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah’s decision to temporarily step down from the post because of an ongoing legal case.
The Kuwaiti has denied any wrongdoing and, without giving any further details, said the allegations made against him in a Swiss court were politically motivated.
Sheikh Ahmad has stood down from two Olympic roles because of the case and on Monday said he would be stepping aside from the presidency of ANOC, the umbrella body for National Olympic Committees which he has run since 2012.
The 55-year-old was the only candidate in the election for president so his decision to take temporary leave of the post meant the election would need to be adjourned.
Still president of the Olympic Council of Asia, he remains a powerful figure in sport and there was a clamour among some delegates to re-elect him in any case.
“This particular ship of ANOC has been sailing very smoothly so now it is not the time to abandon the captain,” said Guyana’s Olympic Committee President Kalam Azad Juman-Yassin during awkward discussions in the hall.
“The captain has not deserted us.”
His Iraqi counterpart Raad Hammoudi agreed.
“We should stand up and fight against the attacks against one of the symbols of the Olympic movement,” he said.
“We believe he has shown exemplary behaviour and he embraces the principals of our movement.”
Sheikh Ahmad was eventually forced to return to the hall to plead with the delegates to agree to the adjournment.
“I request you to accept my position and approve the electoral report,” asked Sheikh Ahmad. “Please accept the whole as it is and I promise you will see me back very soon.”
The postponement was then approved to loud applause.
Fijian Robin Mitchell was also confirmed as senior vice-president and as such he will head up the organisation in Sheikh Ahmad’s absence.
Sheikh Ahmad earlier made it very clear that he has no intention of permanently relinquishing his role at the ANOC.
“I decided to step aside for a while and to come back to you stronger, not only in my beliefs but with trust,” he told delegates.
“I am confident and I am innocent. I have trust in the courts of justice in Switzerland.
“(The court case) is nothing about sport, nothing about corruption.”
Sheikh Ahmad is a close ally of IOC President Thomas Bach and was among the German’s supporters in the run-up to his election in 2013.
Bach sat next to him through the first session and joined in the warm round of applause that greeted the end of Sheikh Ahmad’s speech.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Nick Mulvenney)