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Bach proposes changes to Olympic sports process

June 5, 2013

LONDON (AP) — IOC presidential candidate Thomas Bach is calling for “flexibility” in determining which sports are in the Olympics and proposing a review of the host city bidding process.

Bach sent his platform to IOC members on Wednesday, pushing for creation of an Olympic television network, stronger anti-doping efforts and measures to prevent the Olympics from being “diluted” by other sports events.

A copy of the 15-page document called “Unity in Diversity” was obtained by The Associated Press.

Bach, an IOC vice president, is one of six candidates in the race to succeed Jacques Rogge, who steps down in September after 12 years as head of the International Olympic Committee.

“The IOC president serves this orchestra as a conductor,” Bach said. “I will do my very best to conduct the IOC in this way of participation, dialogue, consensus and motivation.”

Bach, a former Olympic fencing gold medalist for Germany, was the first member to announce his candidacy on May 9.

The other candidates are IOC vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, amateur boxing association head C.K. Wu of Taiwan, former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka of Ukraine and rowing federation chief Denis Oswald of Switzerland.

The election will be held on Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“We need continuity through evolution rather than revolution,” Bach said in the document.

The 59-year-old lawyer calls for a “balance between tradition and progress” in deciding the program of Olympic sports. The process has been criticized after wrestling was dropped from the 2020 Olympics in February.

Wrestling made a shortlist last week along with squash and baseball-softball for possible inclusion in 2020, with a final vote on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires. If wrestling is accepted, no new sport will be brought in as originally intended.

“The composition of the Olympic program is like a jigsaw puzzle: You cannot simply replace some pieces with others, because you may destroy the harmony of the whole picture,” Bach said.

“We should allow ourselves some flexibility with regard to the program. Looking more at disciplines rather than at sports may be one way to achieve this.”

Sports could be tried out first at the Youth Olympics, leading to “a more universal approach” to the program, he said.

On another issue, Bach said “we may have to reconsider our bidding procedure” for the Olympics in order to ensure that hosting the games is feasible for cities and countries.

“We need to balance the interests of the IOC in an in-depth review and risk analysis of a bid on the one hand, and the interest of a potential bidder in a social and promotional return on investment on the other,” he said.

Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are currently bidding for the 2020 Olympics. The IOC will select the host city on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires.

Bach did not specifically mention the contentious issue of member visits to bid cities. Members have been barred from visiting candidate cities since the Salt Lake City bribery scandal. The presidential contenders are leaving open the option of reinstating the visits if members push for them.

Bach said the IOC must work to keep the Olympics as “the most attractive event in the world” and fend off any competitors.

“We must ensure that the uniqueness of the Olympic Games is not diluted by other events and that other incentives to not distract the athletes from viewing the Olympic Games as the real peak and ultimate goal of their efforts,” he said.

Last week, international judo federation chief Marius Vizer was elected president of SportAccord, the umbrella body for all Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. Vizer proposes holding a “United World Championships” for all federations every four years, a potential direct challenge to the Olympics.

Bach, who has been in charge of negotiating the IOC’s European television rights, said the committee should expand ties with broadcasters to increase promotion of the Olympics before and between games — “including the creation of an Olympic TV Channel.”

Four years ago, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced plans to set up its own television network, but was forced to back down after objections from the IOC and NBC.

Bach, who has led the IOC’s disciplinary commissions on doping cases, called for “even stronger deterrent sanctions, better testing procedures and better cooperation with government authorities.”

On other issues, Bach:

— Said it is time to analyze the structure of the IOC, “including the age limit.” He did not elaborate. The current mandatory retirement age is 70 — a rule in place since 2000 as part of reforms enacted after the Salt Lake City case.

— Called for changes in the running of IOC meetings. The session, or general assembly, should be “more interactive” to allow for debate rather than reciting of reports, while the executive board should produce “innovative ideas.” If elected, his first board meeting would be a one-week “brainstorming session” focusing on major issues.

— Proposed splitting the IOC ethics commission into two separate bodies and suggested the IOC request “good governance” reports from Olympic bodies and impose sanctions on any violators.

— Suggested a review of the Youth Olympics, Rogge’s pet project, after the second edition next year in Nanjing, China, including adding new sports that are not on the Olympic program.

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