POSTED: November 13th 2013

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC President Bach is not having an easy honeymoon

(L) Thomas Bach was elected IOC President on September 10 in Buenos Aires / IOC
(L) Thomas Bach was elected IOC President on September 10 in Buenos Aires / IOC

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

(SFC) Usually when there is a change at the head of any organisation, there is a feeling of optimism, a sense of renewal, a honeymoon period for the new leader. It is already two months since German Thomas Bach was appointed President of the International Olympic Committee but, through no fault of his own, this has not been an easy time. Nor does it seem like ending.

As the head of the 2018 Munich bid committee, he had already seen PyeongChang get those Olympics and Paralympics by the overwhelming margin of 63 votes to 25. However, what he might not have expected given his new status was that the inhabitants of the southern German city and its surrounding areas would vote to reject the opportunity to bid for the 2022 Winter Games.

All four of the different polls, including that of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, venue of the 1936 Winter Olympics when the Nazis were in power, were against hosting the event and it needed all of them to be in favour for the bid to go ahead.

Ludwig Hartmann, a Green Party politician in Bavaria who had campaigned against bidding, said that the victory represented the non-transparency and greed of the IOC and even added that all Olympic bids in Germany were now doomed, saying: ”The IOC must change first.”

Expressions of interest in the 2022 Games had to be lodged with the IOC this week and the decision will not be an easy one to make.  This has left in the frame: Almaty in Kazakhstan, Lviv in the Ukraine and Oslo, the capital of Norway, as well joint ones from Krakow, using facilities in both Poland and Slovakia and also Beijing and Zhangjiakou in China. Stockholm joined the race this week although it will have to use Are, 300 miles north of the Swedish capital, for many skiing events.

The very fact that Davos and St. Moritz had pulled out after a similar referendum, while Rome withdrew from the race for the 2020 Olympics largely because of Italy’s financial problems is a reminder that the IOC cannot always get all the cities it would like to bid for the Games. This issue is something that Bach will have to contemplate during his eight year term of office.

Of more immediate concern is the situation in Brazil, due to hold the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016. As the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) this week opened its Fourth World Conference in Johannesburg, it was announced that the doping samples for the World Cup will have to be flown to Lausanne for analysis because the laboratory in Rio de Janeiro will not be ready in time. Earlier this year, the existing one at the Federal University was stripped of its accreditation because of repeated failures in procedure.

As John Fahey, the retiring President of the Wada, said: ”There is a transportation challenge there but it’s not an insurmountable challenge.” This is true and, by 2016, when the Olympics take place, with the vastly greater number of samples and the more urgent need to turn them round quickly, the issue should have been solved.

However, this is yet another example of concern over Rio. The IOC is well aware of the difficulties that the Brazilian city is already facing in the building of facilities and also in transportation, let alone the threat of massive demonstrations, similar to those earlier this year. And these worries were a major reason that for 2020, the IOC went for the safe option of Tokyo because it did not want to risk giving those Games to either Madrid or Istanbul. Thomas Bach may well find his difficulties will increase rather than decrease in the months and years to come.

 ** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th 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 · IOC · Thomas Bach · 2018 Games · Olympics

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