Bach ready to conduct IOC orchestra

Bach ready to conduct IOC orchestra

The new president of the apex sports body is keen to give a new direction to the movement

Bach ready to conduct IOC orchestra

New International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach may not seem like a revolutionary choice to lead the world's biggest sports organisation but the experienced German is set to quickly push through changes that will alter the Games.

The 59-year-old Olympic fencing champion and lawyer swept past five rivals to clinch the elections with a clear majority in the second round, confirming the 119-year-old body was ready to appoint a business-savvy leader to manage its multi-billion dollar potential.
With excellent connections in the world of business and politics, Bach was long seen as the natural choice to succeed Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge who methodically ran a tight ship following IOC corruption scandals and the global economic downturn.

"I know of the great responsibility of being IOC president. This makes me humble," Bach said after the vote. "I want to lead according to my motto: 'unity in diversity'. This means I will do my very best to balance all the different interests of stakeholders of the Olympic movement."

Bach has also pledged to take a close look a the size, cost and sustainability of the Games, offering to make the bidding process more attractive to cities and usher in more than the present limit of just 28 sports.

While Rogge sought to contain the size and cost of the biggest multi-sports event by capping the number of athletes, sports and medals, Bach is more flexible.

"We should definitely keep the limits on number of athletes and establish a limit on number of permanent facilities," Bach said in an interview last month. "With this framework we could gain good flexibility with regard to the programme."

"The number of sports, there we can be more flexible."

Bringing more sports will still need to be approved by the IOC but it represents a U-turn from Rogge's strict policy of one sport replacing another to keep to the limit.

Adding sports would refresh the Olympic programme much faster, especially after the IOC's failed effort to change the programme for the 2020 Games two days ago. After cutting wrestling in February, the sport made a triumphant return at the expense of squash and baseball/softball, highlighting the inherent problems with the current system as no new sport was added to the Olympics after years of planning.

Bach has also expressed an interest in making bidding for the Games attractive to more cities, relaxing some of the guidelines and reducing the cost of campaigning to host the Games that now can reach almost $100 million.

Only three cities — Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, which on September 7 was awarded the Olympics — bid for the 2020 Games.

"Maybe we are asking too much of them," Bach said. "We must ensure that organising the Games is attractive and feasible for as many cities and countries as possible. In this respect we may have to reconsider the bidding procedure to make it more encouraging while ensuring operational excellence."

Another matter of concern for Bach will be to formulate a plan for how the IOC would handle demonstrations against the Russian gay law by athletes at the Sochi Games in February.  Gunilla Lindberg, a member of the IOC executive board from Sweden, said, “The IOC has to really have very clear rules on what you can do and not do.”

 The Sochi Games face potential protests as part of widespread criticism of the law, which bans the dissemination of information to minors about so-called “non-traditional sexual relations.”

 Russian and IOC officials have said that athletes and spectators in Sochi will not be affected by the law. And athletes will not face punishment if they answer reporters’ questions about homosexuality or gay rights, officials have said.

 But the IOC has not answered such questions as: Will athletes face expulsion if they demonstrate on the medal stand, or wear T-shirts or rainbow pins or patches on their uniforms? What if someone wears rainbow-colored nail polish, symbolizing the gay pride flag, as a Swedish high jumper did at last month’s track and field world championships in Moscow?

Bach, who won a gold medal in the team foil competition for West Germany at the 1976 Montreal Games, said a plan regarding Sochi would have to be “worked out” and communicated to Olympic officials of various nations, athletes and the news media.
 While athletes should have the right to express their opinions outside the competition, while in the arena, Bach said, speaking in general, “You have to be protected from political controversies.”

An efficient operator with hands-on experience in major businesses, starting his career as an executive at sports equipment manufacturer adidas, Bach has also set his sights on developing an Olympics-dedicated broadcaster using the resources and material within the IOC.

"Having already the production company in hand we need a discussion with our TV partners, with the international federations about how we can get more Olympic sports in the period between the Games on the screen," he said. "This is a vision, this is nothing you can manage in one two three, in four or five years," said Bach. "But as our Chinese friends say every long journey starts with the first step and it is time to undertake this first step."

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