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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