Bach pushes Olympic TV network proposal
Olympic sports will lose young fans and viewers unless the IOC sets up a television channel to broadcast events in the years between the games, IOC presidential candidate Thomas Bach said Friday.
''Many Olympic sports do not appear enough across the world on TV,'' Bach said. ''If you do not see enough sports on TV and the internet, then these sports will lose more and more the kids and young athletes.''
In a conference call, he elaborated on some of the points raised in the 15-page platform he sent to IOC members on Wednesday.
Bach, an IOC vice president, is one of six candidates to succeed Jacques Rogge as president of the International Olympic Committee. Rogge will step down in September after 12 years in office.
Bach also expanded on his call for a more flexible Olympic sports program, a review of the host city bidding process and changes to the IOC age limit of 70.
One of the more novel proposals in Bach's platform is the creation of an Olympic TV Channel, a project he acknowledged was a ''vision'' that could take years to develop if he's elected.
''This is nothing that you can manage in one, two, three or even four or five years,'' he said. ''`But ... I think it's time to undertake this first step.''
The 59-year-old former fencing gold medalist from Germany said the proposed network would combine programming of all the Olympic sports, including world, continental and some national championships.
''The IOC would contribute with the games but also with its archives,'' he said.
Bach has been the IOC's negotiator of European TV rights deals. One of his election rivals, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, negotiates the U.S. rights - including the record $4.38 billion deal with NBC through 2020.
Bach noted that the IOC already has its own in-house television production company, Olympic Broadcasting Services. He insisted his proposal for a dedicated channel was not about making money but spreading Olympic sports to a wider and younger audience.
Four years ago, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced plans to set up its own television network, but was forced to back down after objections from the IOC and NBC.
Bach said the IOC would need to discuss the proposed global network with its television partners and the international sports federations.
''How it could work in the end, technically this would be for the experts,'' he said. ''It would be pretentious to say I have already the contracts here on the desk and everything is set and ready.
''I want to start a real debate on this. I would like to undertake the first steps to realize one day such a wish.''
In addition to Bach and Carrion, the other candidates are IOC vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, executive board members C.K. Wu of Taiwan and Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, and former board member Denis Oswald of Switzerland.
The election will be held Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
On other issues, Bach called for modifying the process for determining which sports are in the Olympics, a system that has come under scrutiny following wrestling's removal from the 2020 Games. Wrestling is on a shortlist with squash and baseball-softball for possible inclusion.
Bach said the IOC should keep the current limit of 10,500 athletes in the Summer Games, but lift the limit of 28 sports by tinkering with disciplines within the sports. As a cost-control measure, he also proposed limiting the number of permanent sports facilities.
''We could add some fashionable, young and attractive disciplines,'' Bach said. ''It means the limit of 28 sports would not be relevant anymore.''
He also said the IOC should ''reconsider'' the current bid procedure for prospective host cities to give them more time to work out their plans for the games.
''We are sometimes requesting too much, too early,'' Bach said. ''You want to have the games plan ready seven years before the games. Everybody in the bidding process behaves as this would be the real games plan. Then once the games are awarded, the changes start.
''I wonder why we could not save some costs and energy in being more flexible.''
Bach declined to take a position on whether IOC member visits to bid cities - banned since the Salt Lake City scandal - should be reinstated. He said the issue should be considered as part of the ''whole picture,'' including raising the age limit.
''I can tell you I have been meeting many people who were 50 years old and meeting as many people who were 70 years young,'' he said.