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The child outstripping the father in any sphere of life is always news.

Olympic Games always bring up this comparison for, after all, it was the success of the 1924 Olympic football tournament that prompted the French to organise a football World Cup for professional players.

We have come a long way from that but the Winter Olympics provide a useful point of comparison. Ever since the International Olympic Committee introduced a two year gap between summer and winter games, the Winter Olympics have, in effect, provided a curtain raiser for the World Cup. And, as you would expect from a starter, it is nothing like the main course that follows.

If you find this hard to accept, name me a memory from Nagano 1998 that matches, let alone surpasses, the brilliance that was the World Cup in France a few months later, more so as the story had the ending everyone wanted: the creators of the World Cup finally winning their first ever trophy. Or Salt Lake 2002 being more vivid than Korea-Japan 2002, let alone an image from Turin.

This was a winter games that left hardly a trace and was no match for the World Cup in Germany a few months later. That tournament not only created sporting memories, even if the Zidane head butt in the final is one we could have done without, but taught the Germans how to combine a love of football with a display of nationalism – exuberant and expansive but not threatening to other nations.

How interesting that in the Vancouver Games the Canadians are trying to use sport to generate nationalism and, as of now, are struggling to do so. Perhaps, when they devised their now much lampooned “Own The Podium” campaign, they should have consulted Franz Beckenbauer and got some tips on how to combine sport and nationalism. For all the images Vancouver has provided, I am sure that, when in little over four months from now many of us hacks reassemble in South Africa for the first World Cup in that continent, the images both on and off the field will be more vivid.

Whatever happens, and regardless of the outcome on the field, there is one prediction I can make with some certainty. There will be many a day when the winter in South Africa will prove a whole lot colder than the amazingly balmy weather we have been enjoying in Vancouver these past few days.

Football can also claim that, for all the figures produced by the Olympic authorities of the millions watching the Games on television, the World Cup as a single sporting phenomenon reigns supreme. Nothing comes close to the world becoming a global village via television than on the night of a World Cup final.

However, the contrast between the Olympics and football does not always show the world’s favourite sport in the best possible light.

It is a truism to say that organising an Olympics, even a winter one, is on a scale that no World Cup has to cope with. In that sense the Olympics are not so much about sports but about organisation: transport, hotels, movement of people from one venue to another mostly in one city or, as with these winter games, over a couple of locations. A football World Cup’s organisational needs are much more limited.

This need for a finely honed organisation may explain one crucial difference between the Olympics and the World Cup. Over the years, the Olympics movement has built up a structure and leadership which is far superior to anything seen in world, let alone regional, football.

But what about the dreadful corruption crisis of a decade ago when it seemed that the Olympic movement might not survive and led to several members being expelled?

Yes, that was a dark night for the Olympics. But the IOC worked hard to unearth unpalatable facts and, not only restore its image but in the process become a much more transparent and accessible organisation, streets ahead of FIFA in that respect.

And, what is more, the IOC worked out its leadership succession in a way that FIFA just cannot manage. A failure which has caused, and continues to cause, much division in world football.

It is interesting that for long periods both organisations were ruled by similar monarchs. Joao Havelange may have usurped the FIFA throne six years before Juan Antonio Samaranch but in many ways they are from the same mould. Both made identical, and game changing decisions, to hitch their organisations to Mammon. Both were, and remain, hugely controversial figures, worshipped by their acolytes but also generating much adverse publicity.

Yet Samaranch, after surviving the corruption scare, managed to ensure that his chosen successor Jacques Rogge took over. True, immediately after the election the gifted, but mercurial, Dick Pound threw his toys out of the pram and another contestant Kim was jailed in his native Korea. However Rogge, after a few uncertain steps in his early days, has proved a more than worthy successor to Samaranch. Also it seems the succession to Rogge is clear.

If the way Thomas Bach won re-election as Vice President is any guide then it seems that, come 2013 and Rogge’s departure, Bach will have a much better right to own the IOC podium than the Canadians will have after these Games.

Like Samaranch, Havelange also anointed a successor in Sepp Blatter but, while Blatter remains in charge, his reign has been very different to that of Rogge. He had to fight a turbulent election in 1998 to defeat Lennart Johannson whose stated mission was to dismantle what Havelange had built.

Even after 1998 Blatter always seemed to be fighting bush fires to retain his presidency, most notably in 2002 when the Europeans allied themselves with Africa in a vain attempt to unseat him.

He may face yet another challenge next year with former allies like Bin Hammam, once so loyal he left a sick child to join his campaign, making hostile noises. Even former friends like Michel Platini are not as close or loyal to Blatter (pictured) as they once were. What is more under Blatter there seems to be a purge of FIFA officials every few years if not months, sudden and wholesale changes with little or no explanation for such upheavals.

All this emphasises that FIFA is a more intensely political place than the IOC, something of a sporting United Nations general assembly full of characters of varying abilities, some of whom have turned out to be very shady, with little or no policing of their activities from the centre.

True, the IOC, as befits a club, is self electing: existing members vote to accept or reject new ones. FIFA, for all its many deficiencies, has elections and what is more its regional elections are based on geographical confederations which can often be very unpredictable. Samaranch may have gone but most of the IOC members are from his era and still see him as their mentor. Some in FIFA do see Havelange as their guru but there are many who do not and the organisation is full of factions pursing their own agendas and creating a shifting mosaic of alliances.

Yet all of this still does not explain the difference in the calibre of the people running the two bodies. The people running the IOC, right from Rogge downwards, are in general men and women of merit and substance. If organisational merit were an Olympic sport then there is no question that the IOC would win and win so easily that the final score-line would be intensely embarrassing for FIFA.

But am I not ignoring the problems Vancouver has had? Yes, but those problems reflect the weaknesses of the local organising committee not so much the IOC. The football child may have out grown its parent since 1924, but this is one area where the Olympic parent still has a lot it can teach football. The problem is that the football child shows no great desire to listen.

      

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