NHL: Agenda 2020, Drop Dead

By Alan Abrahamson | 4/10/17 |

Agenda 2020, International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach’s would-be reform proposal, holds 40 points. The IOC members passed all 40, unanimously, in December 2014. Some two and a half years later, with the exception of the launch of the Olympic Channel, Agenda 2020 has proven a lot of aspirational talk and not much else.

The NHL’s decision to walk away from the 2018 Winter Games offers potent new evidence of the obvious irrelevance with which it views Agenda 2020 and, by extension, the larger Olympic enterprise. There can be no other conclusion. If Agenda 2020 held the power to effect meaningful change, what would the NHL choose when weighing this essential question: is hockey a brand or a sport?

Aspirational talk is swell. But the real world demands far more. And the NHL’s move underscores the largely empty gesture that Agenda 2020 is well on its way to becoming.

Most of the focus on Agenda 2020 package has been on the points dealing with the bid-city process. That’s understandable. That process needs a wholesale makeover. The 2022 Winter Games race ended with just two cities and now the same for 2024, Paris and Los Angeles.

That was then: ice hockey federation president Rene Fasel and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at a news conference at the Sochi 2014 Olympics // Getty Images

It’s simply not clear whether any of those Agenda 2020 bid-city proposals can ever be meaningful.

Or, for that matter, the rest of the Agenda 2020 package.

Last week, the NHL announced that decision not to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Assuming no change, that ends a run of five consecutive Winter Games with NHL players.

Now, to Agenda 2020, and Recommendation 8. Here it is, word for word:

Forge relationships with professional leagues

Invest in and forge relationships with professional leagues and structures via the respective international federations with the aim of:

“• Ensuring participation by the best athletes

“• Recognizing the different nature and constraints of each of the professional leagues

“• Adopting the most appropriate collaboration model on an ad-hoc basis in cooperation with each relevant international federation.”

How would the reasonable person say that’s working out?

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