Friday Rant: Olympics Drama and Allegiance for Hire

By Richard Lee, CFO of Azul Partners, the parent company of Spend Matters. Richard is also Managing Director of Spend Matters Group, LLC and RJSL Group. 

Hyun-soo Ahn was one of South Korea's most decorated short-track speed skaters (five World Championships and three gold medals at the 2006 Olympics), so why did he change his name to Viktor Ahn and now skates for Russia?

What the author of this NY Times article failed to understand is that sports federations in South Korea are like mini-mobs, if not worse. There have been allegations of abuse of power, misappropriation of funds, physical mistreatment of athletes, etc. I heard rumors that Ahn wasn't supposed to win his third gold back in 2006. Rather, it was supposed to go to one of his teammates so that he too could be exempt from mandatory military service (with mandatory military conscription, you are exempt if you win an Olympic gold).

Instead, Ahn competed like any athlete should. For that, the South Korean Skating Federation that is full of bureaucrats and fat cats made Ahn's life hell and disowned him when he was seriously injured in 2008 and had to miss the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Now Viktor Ahn is winning medals for Russia at Sochi and could become one of the most decorated short-track speed skaters of all time. Talk about karma…  Good for Viktor (and 61% of South Koreans surveyed agree).

What does this have to do with procurement? Here’s a parallel that’s only somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Treat your suppliers well or they might defect or take you to court, like New Zealand company Countdown’s suppliers did.

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