Olympics: Singapore candidate says it's Asia's turn at IOC

SINGAPORE - Would-be IOC boss Ng Ser Miang said the Olympic body would benefit from having an Asian leader and pledged a new era for the organisation as the race for the presidency enters the home straight.

The Singaporean supermarket chief and diplomat told AFP that the 119-year-old International Olympic Committee (IOC) needs a "different perspective" as it heads into an age where the world's most populous region will play a far greater role.

The 64-year-old Ng is considered a strong contender among the six candidates vying to replace Belgium's Jacques Rogge as IOC president in a vote in Buenos Aires on September 10.

The IOC, founded in 1894 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, has had seven European presidents and one American, with Rogge in charge since 2001.

"The IOC has become very global and I think for the IOC it's also important to have a different perspective, in this case coming from a very important part of the world," the Chinese-born Ng said in an interview.

He added: "I hope so!" when asked if it was time the IOC had an Asian leader.

"But I think it's important not just symbolically but for the values they can bring to the table as well, when we talk about universality, different value systems, different cultures, different ways of looking at issues and challenges," said Ng.

"Which also means that you have different solutions, coming from different angles and different perspectives. I believe that's going to be very, very useful to the movement and very important to the movement in future."

Ng is one of two candidates from Asia, along with Taiwan's C.K. Wu, head of the International Boxing Federation. But he played down fears that the two were harming each other's chances by competing for regional votes.

"I'm happy that we have very strong candidates," said Ng, Singapore's non-resident ambassador to Norway.

Germany's Thomas Bach is touted as the front-runner, followed by Ng and Puerto Rican banker Richard Carrion. Ukrainian pole-vault great Sergey Bubka and Denis Oswald of Switzerland are the other hopefuls.

Ng has strong credentials as an existing IOC vice-president with a successful business career, after starting out as a bus entrepreneur and now heading Singapore's biggest supermarket chain.

He also chaired the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, in Singapore in 2010, and was a driving force behind the city-state's rise from sporting backwater to regional centre with Formula One in its portfolio of events.

Wearing an electric blue tie and a humble manner, and sitting in his office near Singapore's new Sports Hub, an under-construction complex including a 55,000-seat national stadium, Ng said he could bring similar acumen to bear on the IOC.

He proposed containing the huge costs of putting on Summer and Winter Olympics, which currently rule out many cities, and better risk assessment to protect hosts from financial difficulties.

Russia's Sochi is estimated to be spending $50 billion on next year's Winter Olympics, while Rio de Janeiro is already under pressure over its hosting of the 2016 Summer Games.

"We have to review the Games bids process, despite scales and complexities of the Games. At the same time reviewing sports programmes as well. We have to make sure they continue to be exciting, to be relevant," said Ng.

He added: "Organising the Games is very complex, it's huge... but definitely it's time that we have a major review of this and see how we can move forward."

Ng also pledged to work more closely with sports federations, national Olympic bodies and sponsors to try to tap their "huge resources" and raise partnerships to a more "strategic level".

He said he would hold half-day meetings with each of the 115 IOC members and then a group retreat to chart the way forward on "hot-button issues" such as the Games' size and scale, which sports are contested, doping and illegal betting.

And to raise efficiency he plans to delegate projects to IOC vice-presidents and members, and review the body's staff and internal operations.

"To me empowerment is going to be very critical. It's going to be one of the factors that will determine our future success," Ng said.

Ng has also placed youth at the heart of his strategy, with ambitious plans to roll out 80 "Olympic youth development centres", many in poor countries, over the next eight years.

"We really have to make sure that the Olympic Movement becomes part of everyone's daily life and starting with the youth is very important," he said.