Road To The Olympic Games

Thomas Bach voted new IOC president

Thomas Bach was elected as the new International Olympic Committee president after two rounds of voting on Tuesday in Buenos Aires.
Thomas Bach of Germany, speaks after being named the new president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tuesday. (Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press)

Thomas Bach was elected as the new International Olympic Committee president after two rounds of voting on Tuesday in Buenos Aires.

Bach, a former Olympic fencer who competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was most recently IOC vice president. In his time with the IOC, he has served on evaluation and doping commissions and negotiated television rights deals in Europe.

The 59-year-old lawyer has also led Germany's Olympic commmittee.

He received 49 votes in the second round to secure a winning majority. Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico finished second with 29 votes.

Canadian Olympic Committee statement

The many years Thomas Bach has devoted to leadership and advocacy for sport have now culminated in his election as the head of the world’s most prestigious sport body.

On behalf of the entire Canadian Olympic family, congratulations to Mr. Bach on this enormous achievement. Canada looks forward to continuing our strong relationship with the IOC under his leadership and we wish him all the best as he continues to lead the progress of Olympism around the world. We also offer our heartfelt thanks to former President Jacques Rogge for his exceptional contribution to sport, and the lasting legacy of excellence that he leaves on the global sport community.

Bach will face immediate challenges. There is controversy ahead of February's Sochi Olympics regarding Russian legislation that bans gay rights activism. As well, IOC's marketing head said on Monday that some companies are leery of investing in sponsorships for the 2016 Rio Olympics because of Brazil's slowing economy.

"Let us, this great universal orchestra of IOC members, play together in harmony towards a bright future for the Olympic Movement under the leadership of the IOC," said Bach.

He succeeds 71-year-old Belgian Jacques Rogge, who steps down after a 12-year term that spanned three Summer Olympics and three Winter Games. Rogge's tenure was marked by some challenges, but relative stability compared to the two-decade reign of his predecessor, Spaniard Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The Olympics will then be held in Asia over the most recently announced four-year span — Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020 — which could pose a challenge for sustaining interest in the West.

Busy IOC session

The multilingual German becomes the ninth president since the IOC was founded in 1894. With just one exception — Avery Brundage of the United States, from 1952 to 1972 — the presidents have all hailed from Europe.

"I know of the great responsibility of an IOC president," Bach said. "This makes me humble. I want to lead the IOC according to my motto, `Unity and Diversity.

"I want to be a president for all of you. This means I will do my very best to balance well all the different interests of the stakeholders of the Olympic movement. This is why I want to listen to you and to enter in an ongoing dialogue with all of you. You should know that my door, my ears and my heart are always open for you."

The president is elected to an eight-year term, with the possibility of a second four-year mandate.

The other candidates were Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, Ser Miang Ng of Singapore, Denis Oswald of Switzerland, and C.K. Wu of Taiwan.

In the first round of voting, Bach got 43 votes, followed by Carrion with 23, Bubka eight, Oswald seven and Ng and Wu six each. Ng then beat Wu 56-36 in a runoff.

After awarding the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo and bringing wrestling back into the games, the IOC completed the last of its three critical votes — choosing the person for the most powerful job in international sports.

Kuwaiti backs Bach

Bach's supporters had hoped for a first-round win, but a second-round victory still showed that he had a big base of support.

Carrion, who chairs the IOC's finance commission and negotiates lucrative U.S. television rights deals, wound up being Bach's only serious challenger.

None of the six candidates made any dramatic proposals for change, promising to continue the line pursued by Rogge, particularly in the fight against doping.

The election follows Saturday's IOC decision to send the 2020 Games to Tokyo and Sunday's vote to reinstate wrestling for the 2020 and 2024 Games. The presidential vote is what most of the 100-plus IOC members had been focusing on.

Much of the pre-election talk among the members has been about the power of Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The sheik was a key backer of Bach. With his influence in Asia and among the national Olympic committees, the Kuwaiti can deliver a large number of votes. He was seen as playing a key role in Tokyo's victory, even helping Istanbul get to the second round of voting to keep Madrid out of the final.

John Coates of Australia, as expected, was voted in as vice president to replace Bach.

Two athlete members of the IOC will be voted on at the Sochi Games Feb. 7-23. Women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., is among nine athletes running to fill the two spots currently held by fellow Canadian Beckie Scott and Saku Koivu of Finland.

With files from