Beware the Ides of March? Not Swim Cesar: I came, I stayed, I gave-up presidential power
Editorial, by Craig Lord, Swim Vortex

Veteran French journalist Eric Lahmy, former star writer at L’Equipe, has joined the chorus of opprobrium of FINA leadership, its u-turns and blunders, with a stinging satirical and sarcastic rebuke of plans to have the president of the swimming federation stay on in the job until he is 85 in the face of prevailing rules at IOC and FINA levels and even though the Uruguayan incumbent came to the top seat on a campaign ticket of “no more than two terms”.

Lahmy’s opener: “Jules Cesar Maglione does not fear the Ides of March (nothing to fear, after all that was the day before yesterday).”

The respected journalist’s broadside at Galaxie Natation follows similar treatment of Julio Cesar Maglione by WSCA Executive Director John Leonard with the backing of a great many of the most successful coaches in the sport.

A “real gem is this Cesar”, writes Lahmy as he sharpens his quill to explain how Julio would like to hang on to power and how those closest to him would play king-makers to their own champions – as opposed to those in the water – by choosing a vice president who would then be in line to become the president when the 85-year-old is majesty no more and finds himself half a decade beyond his sell-by-date as an IOC member (in Olympic circles and in FINA rules that he voted for just a few years ago, the age limit is 80).

Maglione’s forced retirement at IOC level would leave the figurehead with so much time on his hands. Thank heavens for FINA, suggests Lahmy, tongue more firmly in cheek than a goose whose foie gras is about to be cooked.

If there is nothing new in the detail of what Lahmy writes on the topic FINA’s leaders think appropriate as their next move to empower themselves – not swimming – the Frenchman’s words do indeed deliver a line rare in the media to date and unheard of in FINA circles: criticism and deep cynicism of the role of the all-powerful executive director Cornel Marculescu, 74 this summer.

The FINA Bureau proposals we wrote on last month after a gathering of the executive in January would hand power of negotiation of contracts over to Marculescu. Sensible, suggests Lahmy, given that 80-year-olds tend to get tired more quickly (especially with all those other organizations, world, regional, continental and domestic, that take up his time and energy and leave one wondering how it could all be possible for one man). Add to that, of course, the notion that Marculescu already has control of the power of wheel and deal when trotting the globe to press the flesh with hosts and potential hosts of what many in the sport now see as FINA’s overblown world of events-for-holding-events sake.

Writes Lahmy:
“In short, we extend Maglione’s reign, but we wish no longer to tire him – that’s a promise – and Mr Marculescu will [assume] those presidential powers that interest him.

If I were cynical, I would say that I know well that there method of Marculescu: extend the term of a senile and threatened leader, engineer a vice-president to reassure all about continuity, walk off with essential power and in the vice of it all: the director is the president.”

He concludes: “But we know that is not the case: here [at FINA] they are building the best system for ethical and effective governance of the International Federation….”

(For those who can read in French, well worth taking in Lahmy’s original prose and the nuance to be found therein.)

The late Nick Thierry (how he is missed) had a playful term he would use when referring to Julio Maglione in his days as Honorary Treasurer: uno para ti, dos para mi. Today, it seems, he of the middle name Cesar would like to make it tres para mi in true empirical style.

Congress, the ultimate power of the International Federation, should, say coaches, athletes and others, tell him that it is time to move on – and the role of director is to serve the membership of swimming and negotiate only that which the ruling authority of FINA say he should. I share that view: those ‘serving’ have gone beyond themselves and seem to be incapable of rolling back and planting their feet back down on earth.

Lahmy is among several senior journalists who have turned their gaze towards the FINA leadership and the series of blunders that have led swimming to a watershed of late, among the most pressing issues its relationship with event hosts and the perception that that has become incompatible with its role as the enforcer of the WADA Code.

As one senior journalist told SwimVortex today: As we get closer to the World Championships this summer, we can expect a lot more attention on the way FINA is going about its business. Let’s face it: we’re back in Rome 1994, we’re back in Perth 1998; we’re back in a place where FINA’s top table has opened itself up to much deserved criticism and ridicule.

Another observer noted that the issues have started to spill into the attention zone of the leadership at the International Olympic Committee at a time when the wider membership of swimming is asking: can FINA be repaired, or should it the replaced?

There is an offer on the table, from Bill Sweetenham with the backing of those representing many of the world’s leading coaches, international and domestic: FINA must submit to review. The offer is the best FINA could ever hope for under the circumstances. If it wishes to survive (yes, I’m sure they would laugh at the very thought right now) it will indeed beware the Ides of March.

The mantra from WSCA, ASCA and others gets ever louder: we all deserve better.

Beware the Ides of March? Not Swim Cesar

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