POSTED: July 10th 2012

JOHN GOODBODY: Thomas Bach is front-runner to become IOC President but the race is still to ramp up

IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and potential candidate Thomas Bach / IOC / Renaud Philippe
IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and potential candidate Thomas Bach / IOC / Renaud Philippe

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

July 10 - When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gathers in London next month for the start of the Summer Games, the members’ attention will not solely be on the feast of sporting excellence on display.

They will also be discussing the successor to Dr. Jacques Rogge, whose presidency expires next year after a 12-year term of both consolidation and also of expansion.

When Dr. Rogge was appointed in Moscow in 2001, the IOC had just survived the biggest crisis in its history –the fall-out from the Salt Lake City ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal, which led to 10 members either resigning or being expelled. Juan Antonio Samaranch, who, probably rightly, refused calls to resign as president, at least oversaw the beginning of a new regime.

Dr. Rogge has ensured that the process has continued and has kept steady a ship that was just emerging from the most fearsome of tempests. During the last 12 years, he has made mistakes, one being the championing of rugby sevens  for the Games, rather than the far more popular 15-a-side.

However, he has succeeded in getting the Youth Olympics off the ground and, perhaps, most important of all has seen the reserves of the IOC increase from about £65 million to more than £400 million so that it is better able to withstand any future financial crisis. Dr. Rogge has also been a most courteous and receptive ambassador for the Olympic Movement.

The front-runner as his successor is Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencing champion, who has led the German Olympic Committee and has the astute brain of a highly qualified lawyer. However, members may wonder if now is the time for them to break away from their Eurocentric past. After all the IOC  was swayed by Rio de Janeiro’s demands for the Movement to break new ground when the Brazilian city was bidding for the 2016 Summer Games.

There have been eight IOC Presidents and only one of them, the American Avery Brundage, was from outside Europe. One possible contender now to stand against Bach is Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, who has overseen the signing of the new spate of TV deals through to 2020, including one worth about £2.9 billion with NBC in the United States.

Should he wish to stand –and often candidates like to know that they have strong backing before even venturing to put their names forward—he must stand a serious chance.

However, as the IOC members chat in the hotel lounges, dining rooms and sports stadia in a month’s time, one wonders if there will be any support for a different choice. One might be Ser Miang Ng of Singapore, who is Chinese-speaking - a useful facility because of the increasing importance of China to the Movement - and a man who masterminded the staging of the Youth Olympics in Singapore.

And for a really radical contender, how about Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Arab woman to win an Olympic gold medal? She has shown herself to be an invigorating presence on several IOC Commissions, including chairing the IOC Evaluation Commission for the 2012 Games.  It would be an unlikely but intriguing prospect if members began to lobby for her. A woman President of the IOC? It is only a matter of time.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · John Goodbody · IOC · president · Jacques Rogge · Thomas Bach · Richard Carrion · Ser Miang Ng · Nawal El Moutawakel

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