BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, September 10 – 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, 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.
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 told AFP in August that even in his time as an athlete he had never witnessed doping firsthand.
“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.
The front page of one Argentinian newspaper last week had a cartoon of Sabah, wearing a t-shirt with Bach’s face on it, grinning and with his thumb raised, while rival Denis Oswald went public and slammed him for his business links with Kuwait.
However, it made little impact and Oswald, like his fellow candidates, were no match for the machine behind Bach.
All were high quality candidates.
Puerto Rican banker and philanthropist Richard Carrion would have brought charisma, lacking in Rogge’s 12 years, to the job as well as financial know how — it was he who negotiated a record broadcasting deal with NBC for exclusive American rights up to the 2020 Games.
However, IOC members hold great store by a sporting background and the 60-year-old’s lack of that counted against him.
Ng Ser Miang and 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 in their campaigns.
Sergey Bubka’s exploits as an athlete stood out in terms of sporting achievement and he would have been the youngest ever president but unlike his time as a pole vaulter his campaign never got off the ground.
LIST OF IOC PRESIDENTS
1894-1896 – Demetrius Vikeelas (GRE)
1896-1925 – Baron Pierre de Coubertin (FRA) (he stepped down from 1916-19 after joining French Army in World War I)
1916-1919 – Baron Godefroy de Blonay (SUI) (caretaker while de Coubertin was on army duty)
1925-1942 – Henri de Baillet-Latour (BEL)
1942-1952 – Sigfrid Edstrom (SWE)
1952-1972 – Avery Brundage (USA)
1972-1980 – Lord Michael Killanin (IRL)
1980-2001 – Juan Antonio Samaranch (ESP)
2001-2013 – Jacques Rogge (BEL)
2013- – Thomas Bach (GER)