Meet the Non-Candidates for IOC President: Thomas Bach
(ATR) Around the Rings
interviews possible candidates for the IOC presidency – today, Thomas Bach of Germany.
Thomas Bach at DOSB headquarters in Frankfurt. (ATR/Tencent)
Our series will include interviews with four of the most-mentioned possible contenders to succeed Jacques Rogge next year. None of the four has yet to declare anything more than an interest in considering a run for the post. Formal notice is due in June 2013.
Along with Bach, the series this week features interviews with Rene Fasel, Richard Carrion and Ser Miang Ng. All were conducted in London during the Olympic Games.
All gingerly stepped around their current status as non-candidates. IOC rules for the campaign put a damper on public debate and statements outside of a manifesto for IOC members to review.
Bach, 59, an IOC member since 1996, is also the president of the DOSB, the NOC for Germany. A fixture on the Executive Board, Bach is now in his second term as a vice president. He chairs the influential Juridical Commission and has helped negotiate TV rights deals in Europe.
Around the Rings:
What is your impression of London?
I think that the Games are really exciting. I had already very high expectations knowing well my friend Seb Coe and what he has done, and knowing the British people and then their love for sport. But what we see here is even beyond my already very high expectations.
Thomas Bach presents the men's time trial gold medal to British cyclist Bradley Wiggins at Hampton Court Palace. (Getty Images)
You know, to see the crowds in the stadiums, if you see how they are cheering and how fair they are to all the teams.
The conditions for the athletes are great. This you can see from the more subjective side but also the objective side. If you speak to athletes they all like very much the Olympic Village, they appreciate the apartments, the food, the atmosphere in the Village. And on the more objective side, we have already now more than  world records in this Olympic Games. So you can see that the conditions are the best for the best athletes of the world.
And this is a place where there could have been problems with transportation, with security, but it does not seem to be a major issue here.
The Games and the transportation, this is an eternal story. There’s no city in the world where you can accommodate 10,500 athletes plus hundreds of thousands of spectators plus thousands of officials plus tens of thousands of volunteers without a transportation issue. And you have to accommodate one way or the other and here the traffic management with the Olympic Lanes, in general, has been working very well. But there will always be minor hiccups in transportation.
Security...I’m really impressed by the friendliness of the military people here. This shows the face of an army which is really great. Whenever you speak with one of them, they make a joke and it is really great and adds a lot to the atmosphere so you feel secure, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, you feel welcome.
Is this as close as you get to having a perfect summer Olympics?
I don’t think that you should, and I’m sure you cannot, compare different editions of Olympic Games. The fascination of the Games is also coming from the fact that each culture has its expression of the idea of the Olympic Games and is taking different approaches, so if one would try just to copy the predecessor, it would not work.
German fencer Britta Heidemann alongside Thomas Bach at the opening of German House in London. (Getty Images)
If London would have tried to copy Beijing, they would have failed; if Beijing had tried to copy Athens or Sydney, then they would have failed. Each edition of the Games has to be original; it has to be genuine, it has to reflect the culture of the home country. This is why I’m reluctant to say it is close to perfect or it is great, it is exciting.
On IOC matters, one of the important decisions you have to make in the next half-year or so is about sports, cutting a sport from the Olympic program and then later on next year deciding whether to add a sport to the Olympic program. First of all, the idea of allowing baseball and softball to compete as one federation – that's a very unusual move for the IOC. You had to review it as part of the Juridical Commission?
Yes, we were asked by the two federations how and in which way they could make an application just for one spot in the Olympic program, and then the IOC president requested an opinion of the commission, and the advice was pretty clear.
They have different choices: they could go individually for two spots; if, however, they want to go for one spot, then it must be one federation only, and it cannot just be a joint bid by two federations.
I think it’s a major step forward in the development of these two sports because they can indeed be complimentary with regard to international representation. After a merger, we would have equal representation of men and women. The co-operation with regard to the construction of facilities all over the world, of training and so on can be much closer and then better, so I definitely think that it is, irrespective of the candidature for the program, irrespective of legal issues, it’s a great step forward in the development of softball and baseball.
Now the actual decision that you and your colleagues need to make on the Executive Board next February – cutting a sport – that’s a very difficult decision.
Thomas Bach with German president Christian Wulff and Munich 2018 bid chair Katarina Witt at the 2011 IOC Session in Durban. (ATR)
We need not to cut a sport. We need to see the evaluation of London and then to compare it with the candidates, so there are different options. It can very well be that the 26 which are on the program here in London plus two – golf and rugby – or it could be it’s 25 plus two and then one spot would be open, and so I’m really interested to see the evaluation of the London results.
And then before it’s just premature to speculate about the different sports. And the program, anyways, is a piece of art.
Why can’t you have 29 sports? Or 30 sports?
It has been introduced in the charter that it should be these 28 sports, and it should not exceed 10,500 athletes. You can always argue and then have ideas there, but now the situation we have to live with is this decision that the Session has taken a couple of years ago, and to change this now during an ongoing procedure I think is very difficult.
The Executive Board has a lot of new members. Is that going to change the dynamics of how the EB works? How the decisions are made?
We’ll have to see. It will be interesting to see the first meeting, but our president there is very open, and I’m sure he will follow his style of leading this Executive Board.
And the next big issue for the future of the IOC will be a new president. Have you given any more thought, I’m sure you have, about whether Thomas Bach will be a candidate for president?
No, I feel honored that many colleagues think I could be fit for this office, but still I’m loyal to our president and I do not think that it would be good and it would be fair to him to have one year before his term ends to have the discussion and campaigning going on.
Thomas Bach and Jacques Rogge together at the 2010 IOC Session in Vancouver. (Getty Images)
There are discussions and people are talking, obviously. There should be now no campaigning. We should support him because you mentioned some of the issues we have to solve – we’re not yet at the end of London.
We should do everything to make this a success and to focus on this and we have important decisions to take, like the program and others, and the issues are coming first and then it’s about the people.
Next June when the candidacies are declared, is that a time to discuss engaging in some public discussion and debate?
This is not like a general election in the United States or in any other country that you have to make the candidate known to the people who elect him. Here they know them very well. Whoever the candidates are, they come from the membership and so the members are in an excellent position to form their opinion based on the experience they have with the candidates.
The race for the 2020 Olympics is underway right now. Three cities. Any thoughts at all about how that looks?
I think we have three strong candidates. This is already good to know. We have seen here the firm commitment of all the three cities and countries involved. They all have confirmed the determination and the support.
So it will be an interesting race, but for the IOC I think we are in a quite comfortable position because wherever the Games are going, of these three cities we can be very confident that we will have good Games in 2020.
What about Spain’s situation with the finances? Is that a problem for them moving forward?
Of course, it’s an issue which is addressed in the discussions and conversations with the candidature of Madrid, but I think in the end the people will know that we are talking of Spain in eight years and not of the situation now. But of course it is a matter of concern, and this is why it is important to have a strong government commitment in this respect.
And now, with the U.S. and the IOC coming to terms on a new revenue sharing agreement, there’s talk about a bid from the United States for 2024. How important is it that the U.S. put together a bid and host a Summer Games sometime in the future?
Thomas Bach during the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. (ATR)
I think it would be very, very good to have Olympic Games back in the United States because – and this is not about as, you may suspect or assume, this is not for commercial reasons.
I think it would be very good and necessary for many sports on the Olympic program to be present in the United States and to be promoted not only there during the Olympic Games every four years, but in the build-up to the Games, so that these sports are not losing ground against the traditional U.S. sports and the professional leagues.
So I think it would be in the interest of sports to have more than the traditional U.S. sports there onscreen in the United States drawing support. Because you can see here in London what Games mean for the motivation of young people, of the public, for a very broad spectrum of sports. This is why I think everyone would appreciate having a good bid from United States.
So 2024 would be the earliest they could bid.
Yes, that’s the earliest. Now I learned that they have taken a decision about the ’22 Winter Games. That would, of course, have been a good opportunity, but the USOC is now looking into ’24 or ’28, and then this is of course their decision and it’s not up to me to give advice to the USOC, even not via Around the Rings
Written and reported in London by Ed Hula.
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