- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

PARIS (AP) - Wow, it must be fabulous being Joao Havelange.

This threatened to be a bear of a week for the man who was sporting royalty, with his aristocratic air and physique of the Olympic swimmer and water polo player he once was.

In 48 years at the International Olympic Committee, Havelange shook the hands of more princes, presidents and other VIPs than most of us have had hot dinners.

He also led world football for 24 years _ the transformational era from 1974-98 when the sweat of legendary players like Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane was helping to turn the much-loved game into the global mega-business it is now.

Havelange did some icky things, too _ like visiting Nigeria just before it hanged playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other anti-government activists in 1995. For that, he made no apologies. “I went out there to look at the terrain, installations and hotels,” he said.

He does not want to see his life’s work ruined by pesky reporters, certainly not those who allege Havelange took a $1 million kickback in his last full year as president of football’s governing body, FIFA.

So Havelange sent a letter. Rather than face his peers at the IOC, who, to their credit, felt obliged to examine evidence unearthed and handed over by reporter Andrew Jennings and the BBC, Havelange last week wrote to IOC President Jacques Rogge that he was resigning.

Old age. Imperfect health. Can’t travel. Sure you understand. Bye-bye, Joao. Or something along those lines.

The original plan had been that the IOC executive board would deliberate on his case this Thursday. A two-year suspension, even possible expulsion, could have been on the cards.

That won’t happen now. With Havelange on his way out, the IOC says it no longer has the power to investigate him.

Case closed.

Harry Houdini himself couldn’t have timed this exit better. Others, at FIFA and the IOC, have taken this route in the past, too. Like Jack Warner, who quit as a FIFA vice president in June, ending its bribery investigation of him.

Only, in the real world, that’s not how things work. The questions about corruption at FIFA, Havelange’s fief for so long, will not stop here.

Admittedly, demanding answers from a 95-year-old man looks disrespectful, even vindictive given that the misdeeds allegedly happened 14 years ago and weren’t a crime then in Switzerland, where the IOC and FIFA are based.

Arguing that Havelange should be called to account when, Rogge suggests, his health no longer allows him to travel regularly to IOC and FIFA meetings, also smacks of poor taste.

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