LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Members of the International Olympic Committee compliantly fell into line yesterday with the insistence of Juan Antonio Samaranch that they begin instituting legitimate, if incremental, reform in an attempt to restore credibility to the damaged Olympic movement.
The 93 voting delegates unanimously voted to end their unlimited memberships and to restrict future presidents to a maximum of 12 years in office, as well as to select 15 active athletes to the IOC. The session will continue today with a vote on the contentious issue of whether to allow delegates to visit cities bidding on the Winter and Summer Games.
The 79-year-old Samaranch has called for an end to the visits, but the IOC is said to be split on the matter.
This weekend's reforms will not immediately change the makeup of the IOC in a substantive manner; neither will they represent an overhaul in the way it operates. Rather, they represent another step in a continuing attempt to persuade the public, corporate sponsors and lawmakers that the IOC has begun to transform itself into a more open, accountable and less corrupt organization a year after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal was disclosed.
"I think the IOC has been transformed from being a small, personal organization through its history into something as transparent as we could make it and responsive to the tasks now before it," said former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, the most visible outside member of an 82-person reform commission that has been working since June.
The most significant reforms enacted yesterday reduced the age limit for new IOC members from 80 to 70 and subjected all delegates to re-election every eight years. Previously, they did not have to face re-election. Current members can serve until age 80. Supporters of the age and term limits said the changes will allow more frequent turnover in delegates. Of the 102 current delegates, 66 are 60 or older.
The committee will increase to as many as 130 members until 2003 with an eventual limit of 115 -- 70 selected at large, 15 athletes, 15 presidents of international sports federations and 15 presidents of national Olympic committees. The delegates also voted unanimously to restrict future IOC presidents to an eight-year term, plus a second term of four years.