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Bach to seek re-election as IOC president

IOC president Thomas Bach (by DENIS BALIBOUSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee president, said he intends to run for a second term leading the organization. 

Bach, 66, made the announcement at the beginning of the 136th IOC Session on July 17, marking the first such event to be held in a videoconference format because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He was first elected to an eight-year term in 2013, and is eligible for an additional four-year term.

His announcement is designed as a move toward stability amid a period of marked turbulence for the IOC and Olympic movement at large. Following the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to next summer, marking a peacetime first, and the continued spread of Covid-19, the future schedule of both the Summer and Winter Olympics remains somewhat uncertain.

But Bach, a former gold medal winner 44 years ago for then-West Germany in fencing, said he intends to continue to lead the IOC and help show “the entire international community of the irreplaceable value of the Olympic Games.” He succeeded Jacques Rogge seven years ago. 

“If you the IOC members want, I am ready to run for a second term as IOC president and to continue to serve you and this Olympic movement, which we all love so much, for another four years,” he said. 

It is expected that Bach will run unopposed once his initial term ends next year. Elections are slated to be held in June 2021 in Greece.

Following his announcement, Bach received widespread praise from other IOC members for his stewardship of the organization. 

“We need your leadership,” said Sergey Bubka, former pole vault champion, a rival to Bach in the 2013 election, and now the president of Ukraine’s national Olympic committee.

In addition to challenges stemming from Covid-19, Bach has also faced a Russian doping scandal.

Bach, meanwhile, also insisted that the rescheduled Tokyo Games can still become a beacon of global hope, despite rising skepticism among local residents and corporate sponsors, heavy additional costs stemming from the postponement, and the need for large-scale aid to international federations because of the ongoing pandemic.

“We can, together with the [Tokyo] organizing committee, turn these postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 into an unprecedented celebration of unity and solidarity of humankind, making them a symbol of resilience and hope,” he said. 

To that end, Bach called for far greater collaboration and cooperation between nations to continue fighting the virus.

“This crisis is far from over,” he said. “This situation will need all our solidarity, creativity, determination, and flexibility. In fact, the corona crisis shows us again that to respect each other is not enough. We have to help each other. The major lesson is: we need more solidarity within societies and among societies.”

Bach in his address to the IOC members also mentioned the rising threat of boycotts, which could resurface for the Beijing Games in 2022 around protests of China’s record on human rights. The issue is also a personal one for Bach, as he could not defend in 1980 his fencing title in when West Germany joined the United States to boycott the Summer Olympics that year in the then-Soviet Union.

“It appears that today, some just do not want to learn anything from history: that such sporting boycotts do not have any political effect whatsoever,” Bach said. “The Soviet army stayed nine long more years in Afghanistan after the [1980] boycott. A sporting boycott only punishes the athletes of the boycotting country and deprives their people of sharing in the success, pride, and joy of their Olympic team. The only political effect the boycott of 1980 had, was to trigger the revenge boycott of the following Olympic Games, Los Angeles 1984.”

Bach additionally made veiled complaints over national self-interest in areas such as anti-doping. The World Anti-Doping Agency is fighting back against US threats to pull its funding from the organization.

“Unfortunately, we are already seeing clear signs in some parts of the world that the one scenario is on the rise, where society and nations are driven by even more egoism and self-interest,” he said. “This leads to more confrontation and to the politicization of all aspects of life: culture, economy, health, science, humanitarian aid; even the fight against doping is already being targeted.”

The IOC additionally elected five new members, including two-time Olympic champion Sebastian Coe of Britain, the president of World Athletics. The others are Maria de la Caridad Colón Ruenes, Cuban Olympic Committee (COC) board member; Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who served as President of Croatia from 2015 through to February this year; Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and a board member of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee; and Battushig Batbold, Mongolian Olympic Committee first vice-president and current member of the IOC Marketing Commission.

Two other members, John Coates of Australia and Ser Miang Ng of Singapore, were elevated to IOC vice president status and have gained seats on the executive board.