IOC president Bach pushes new Olympic agenda

There’s no slowing down Thomas Bach these days.

The new IOC president is pursuing a frenetic pace in his first

three months in office, quickly putting his own stamp on the job

and the direction of the Olympic movement.

After a whirlwind global tour that took him to Asia, Africa,

Europe and the United States, the 59-year-old German chaired his

first meeting of the International Olympic Committee executive

board on Tuesday.

It was a meeting that underlined Bach’s focus on the challenges

facing the upcoming games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Olympics

in Rio de Janeiro.

On Wednesday, Bach took his executive board a few miles down

Lake Geneva from Lausanne, Switzerland, to the picturesque resort

of Montreux, famous for its annual summer jazz festival.

They are holed up in a hotel for a four-day ”brainstorming

session” on what Bach calls the ”Olympic Agenda 2020” – his

blueprint of priorities and possible changes for the rest of the

decade.

Here’s a look at five areas the board is reviewing:

SHUFFLING SPORTS: One of the biggest difficulties of former IOC

President Jacques Rogge’s 12-year term was settling the Olympics

sports program. His decision to set a limit of 28 sports, including

25 ”core sports,” for the Summer Games has been criticized. This

was especially true after wrestling was dropped and then reinstated

for the 2020 Olympics, with no new sports included as originally

planned. Bach is suggesting a more flexible system, one that would

allow for addition of new sports by trimming the number of existing

disciplines and events. Bach has already said baseball and softball

could be brought into the 2020 Tokyo Games after all. Squash will

also want a chance. The IOC will have to try to find a new

procedure that values both tradition and novelty.

BETTER BIDDING: Bach has talked about revamping the process for

bidding to host the Olympics. He feels the current system relies

too heavily on a tick-the-boxes procedure that focuses primarily on

technical requirements. Bach wants potential host cities to show

more ”creativity” and to sell their case to the IOC on their

unique vision for the games. Also back on the table is the issue of

member visits to bid cities. Visits have been banned for more than

a decade since the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. Bach is

sounding out the members on reinstating visits, probably involving

organized group visits paid for by the IOC. Any new process would

be brought in for the bidding for the 2024 Olympics, which could

boast a high-profile field of candidates from the United States,

Italy, France, South Africa and Qatar.

HOW OLD IS TOO OLD? One of the reforms enacted after the Salt

Lake City scandal was the imposition of a 70-year age limit for

members. Many IOC officials and members now feel that 70 is too

young for mandatory retirement, that delegates can still be

effective beyond that age. There seems to be a general consensus

the limit should be raised, possibly to 75. It’s not clear how any

change would affect members who are 70 now or about to turn 70.

SPEAKING OF YOUTH: Bach speaks frequently of engaging with youth

and encouraging sports participation among young people to ”get

the couch potatoes off the couch.” The creation of the Youth

Olympics was Rogge’s pet project. The Summer Youth Games debuted in

Singapore in 2010 and will have its second edition next year in

Nanjing, China. Bach has endorsed the Youth Olympics, but has also

suggested the event could be used as a testing ground for new

sports that could eventually make it into the full-fledged games.

Skateboarding could be an example. And how about American football?

Yes, really. The sport received provisional recognition from the

IOC on Tuesday, the first step on a long road to possible inclusion

in the games.

TV TIME: One of Bach’s presidential campaign proposals was the

creation of an Olympic television channel. The idea is to broadcast

Olympic sports in the years between the games. The channel would

promote sports which receive little, if any, air time outside the

games. It would spread sports to a wider and younger audience. Bach

would have to make sure the project doesn’t conflict with the IOC’s

own television partners, including NBC in the United States. And

don’t forget: Four years ago, the IOC and NBC forced the U.S.

Olympic Committee to scrap plans to set up its own network.

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