|Photo: Olivier Bruchez (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0|
|Snow hides many sins.|
The Swiss Alps are no stranger to nefarious gatherings, and in the last month a discreet hotel high above Verbier has, we can exclusively reveal, played host to the great and the not-so-good of world and European sports administration. Yes, this is exactly as glitzy as it sounds.
The reason for this clandestine event is well-known to those behind the scenes in global sport, the annual Sporting Chance awards are famous among as second only to the Oscars' afterparty when it comes to debauchery and excess. Previous years have seen former French football star and UEFA President Michel Platini awake face-down in a frozen water fountain, and this year was no different, with a bevy of distinguished European figures taking home the top accolades.
|Photo: GollyGforce (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0|
Sporting administrators have long taken the line that financial irregularities, doping, and other forms of unethical sporting behaviour are inevitable and indeed vital elements of our sporting milieu, and a ceremony celebrating these factors takes place every year.
Awards range from the individual, honouring exceptional behaviour by the lead players in the year's sporting trauma, to the institutional — and there's always space for one or two lifetime achievement gongs, usually given to those successfully navigating their country of origin's statute of limitations laws. Obviously, Silvio Berlusconi held a tight grip on that particular competition for several years.
The team of the year award went to the Russian Athletics team in recognition of a stunning several years of sporting achievement. Government Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of the athletes involved. Mutko declined to comment, but his boss, Vladimir Putin, who is rightly proud of Russia's dominance at these awards appeared via hologram.
Wearing a suit and tie and holding a facsimile of the trophy — sources can not confirm rumours that the gong is shaped like a wad of money — in his hands, Putin shook hands with presenter Lord Sebastian Coe and promised to defend his honour and that of his nation over the coming months. He told the assembled guests, 'We've hosted the Olympics, a Formula One race, and the World Cup is coming, what more legitimacy do you need?' Those present refused to confirm or deny that the Russian Premier was holding a semi-automatic weapon.
Other European members of the sporting elite were also honoured in the Alps. Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, known for his crucial contributions to early 2000s cycling and revered by much of Spain's sporting royalty (though we are currently unable for legal reasons to name any of the two major Spanish football teams who have been linked with the physician) and was given a special award for Exceptional Achievement, which he collected at the gala ceremony. The timing of this perplexed many, but in an off-the-record chat after the ceremony Dr. Fuentes affirmed his belief that his continued ability to persuade Spanish prosecutors to ignore the vast evidence recovered from his doping clinic was the reason for his award.
One of the big awards on the night was Sporting Leader of the year. Nominated were the usual suspects from the football world, Michel Platini, Sepp Blatter, and motor-racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone, but alongside those eminent names the former President of athletics' IAAF, Lamine Diack took the glory — the disgraced Senegalese administrator proudly discussing the huge strides taken by his sport in service of the international pharmaceutical industry.
Athletics also claimed a second award. Best Coach is usually highly competitive, not so this year as the American Alberto Salazar stormed to victory over his European rivals. In his acceptance speech, his criticism of press freedoms and, in particular of the British press received generous applause. Nothing goes down better in the Swiss mountains than criticism of the BBC, as attendees at the similarly secluded World Economic Forum event in Davos can attest.
In other awards Boxer Manny Pacquiao just missed out on the Comeback of the Year award after his recent outbursts of homophobia rocketed him towards the front pages after what had seemed a quiet retirement in the sedate world of politics. Instead, he was pipped by the sport of tennis, in a rare conceptual award given in recognition of the hard work undertaken by many to match the level of scandal and wrongdoing seen in the more established fields of football, cycling, baseball and athletics. Needless to say, the exceptional PR campaign being waged by star tennis player Maria Sharapova as we go to press will surely put her in the frame for 2017's reckoning.
A member of staff at the hotel where the awards took place, the charmingly named Hotel du Gazprom, told E&M, 'Whilst I'd love to comment freely, I've been told to relay the information that honest reporting of this event would not be in the interests of the global oil market. That is all.'
About the author
Sam Volpe is from Newcastle in the desolate North of England, and he is one of E&M's Diaphragm editors. He's not as funny as he thinks he is.
He graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with a degree in an apparently pointless arts subject.
Too many banal tweets can be found @samuelevolpe.