Inside track leads Bach to IOC presidency
Thomas Bach achieved a long-held dream on Tuesday as he was elected to the most powerful position in sport, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Buenos Aires.
The 59-year-old German – the first Olympic gold medallist to become president – won in the second round of voting by his fellow IOC members to beat his five male rivals bidding to succeed Jacques Rogge, who stepped down after 12 years in charge.
Bach polled 49 votes in the second round to achieve the majority, with only Puerto Rican banker Richard Carrion getting into double figures with a respectable 29.
Athletics legend Sergey Bubka was humiliated as he garnered just four votes – although he made the second round which was not the case for Taiwan’s Wu Ching-Kuo who was eliminated.
Bach, gold medallist with the West German team in the team foil event in the 1976 Olympics, had been the frontrunner throughout the campaign and had for years been seen as the man most likely to replace Rogge.
“I know what the enormous responsibilites are of being IOC president but I am very happy,” he said after the announcement, which saw him break into a broad smile.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“You my friends and colleagues have placed in me an overwhelming sign of trust.
“I also have enormous respect for my fellow candidates and I will work with you.
“I will put into practise what my motto was during the campaign: ‘unity in diversity’.”
Bach said that being in Buenos Aires brought memories flooding back from when he was an athlete.
“I came here with the team a year after winning Olympic gold,” he said.
“Then it was a cold winter but all I take from it is the warmth of the relations we enjoyed with our rivals even in a dramatic final where we came back from nowhere to win.
“So I take those same warm feelings from the win today.”
Bach, a lawyer by profession, is the ultimate insider having been a member since 1991 and has been vice-president three times while also heading up the Judicial Commission.
He has also been one of the leaders in fighting doping, calling for athletes to be suspended for four years instead of the two-year ban in place at the moment.
It had not been all plain sailing for Bach during the campaign with German media in particular posing questions about his ability to be president.
Bach, who has fond memories of Buenos Aires as he and his team-mates came from 7-1 down to win the world foil title in 1975, looked to be in the eye of the storm in August.
An academic report – commissioned by him – was released alleging that, like their then East German neighbours, West Germany too had indulged in systematic doping of their athletes.
Bach dismissed the claims that he should have known more about what was going on and then set up an inquiry headed by a retired judge.
He said in August that even in his time as an athlete he had never witnessed doping first-hand.
“You heard things and read some stories in the newspapers, that something was going on in different sports,” he said.
An unflattering documentary on German television failed to turn up anything that could seriously damage him, while his relations with increasingly influential Kuwaiti IOC member Sheikh Ahmed al-Sabah also seemed to leave him unharmed.
Singapore's Ng Ser Miang and Taiwan's Wu Ching-kuo represented Asia's hopes of becoming the first president from the continent, but while both are well regarded, with Wu having done remarkable work for boxing especially, they failed to convince.