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
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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