WASHINGTON — The International Olympic Committee elected Germany’s Thomas Bach to be the group’s next president Tuesday, moving the current vice president to the helm of the organization in the run-up to the February 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported Bach was “the man to beat” in the race to succeed IOC president Jacques Rogge, “though there has been growing frustration with the executive board’s top-down approach, seeming European favoritism, and the lack of a clear vision for connecting a new generation of sports fans.”
Rogge’s 12-year tenure officially ends at the close of the IOC’s meeting today, meaning that Bach takes over as questions surround the upcoming Sochi Olympics, particularly Russia’s recently passed anti-LGBT legislation and the propaganda law’s potential impact on athletes and attendees to the Olympics.
Opposition to Russia’s laws have been such that, earlier at the IOC meeting, the head of the Sochi organizing committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, asked the IOC for help on the issue.
“It’s very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue,” Chernyshenko said, according to an Associated Press report from the meeting.
In a statement released by the IOC about the election, Bach said, “Let us, this great universal orchestra of IOC members, play together in harmony towards a bright future for the Olympic Movement under the leadership of the IOC.”
Bach is an Olympic champion himself, having won the gold medal in fencing (foil) at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
In his “manifesto” seeking the role, he wrote of how the Olympic Games are “part of [his] DNA,” noting, “For reasons I do not remember I even had to fence with my right hand, though in football I was and still am a left-footer and in tennis a left-hander.”
Of his time competing at the Olympics, he wrote, “Starting with regional junior championships, I finally saw the dream of my life come true in 1976: Olympic Champion — and this as a fencing teenager at the age of 22.”
Now, he faces another Olympics challenge.
In seeking the IOC presidency — against five others — Bach focused on three main functions as part of his campaign of “Unity in Diversity”: transparency, dialogue and solidarity.
Regarding dialogue, he wrote in part, “Dialogue also means to open up to our modern society and to interact with the realms of culture, politics, education, business, media, science, etc. We need this input, because sport is no longer an island in the sea of society; it is an integral, highly respected, and popular part of society.”
Of solidarity, he wrote, “We urgently need solidarity in order to achieve true universality, to give a fair chance to each and every Member of our Olympic Family, regardless of gender, and to keep us free of discrimination of any kind.”
Notably, C.K. Wu, from Taiwan, who had spoken out publicly about his plans to be more aggressive regarding human rights records of cities seeking to host the Olympics if elected president of the IOC, received the fewest votes of the six candidates and was removed from the ballot after the first round.