POSTED: December 8th 2014

JOHN GOODBODY: Bach lays out his values in impressive IOC address

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

(SFC) When Dr. Jacques Rogge took over as President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2001, he was seen as a sensible choice to steady it after the dramatic and nearly catastrophic fall-out from the Salt Lake City ‘votes for favours’ scandal. Generally, he succeeded admirably in his task, focussing the IOC on its core business of the Games themselves, building up the necessary reserves and ensuring that the Olympic Movement recovered from the gravest crisis in its history.

Apart from a few innovations, such as driving through the setting up of the Youth Olympics, Dr. Rogge did not bring in many new features. That was perfectly understandable. His successor, Thomas Bach, has immediately set himself the task of looking afresh at many aspects of the Games, which have concentrated on the wide consultation ‘Olympic Agenda 2020’, which is now being voted on in Monte Carlo where the IOC is staging its 127th Session.

And Dr. Bach has pointed the way in which he sees the Olympic Movement should be going in his opening speech to the members.  In using the words of Nelson Mandela “sport has the power to change the world”, Dr. Bach has outlined his philosophy, saying that although the Movement has been successful “success is the best reason for change.” There clearly should be no stagnation, stating: ”The success of today gives you only the opportunity to drive the change for tomorrow…..We want to be the leaders of change, not the object of change.”

Dr. Bach said that sport “is too important in society to ignore the rest of society”, urging that the Movement should be at the service of society and be “in a respectful dialogue” with this society, citing the words of the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell that “change is scientific, progress ethical.”

He has rightly emphasised the need for people to ‘get the message’ of the Olympic Movement, with the need of respect for rules, tolerance, solidarity and peace. The Olympic Games are, after all, something considerably more than the world championships of most leading sports. They have an extra dimension.

By proposing alterations in the bidding process, Dr. Bach is emphasising a lasting legacy for those cities and countries hosting the Games, recognising that different candidate cities strive for very different development goals, stating that this diversity is “part of the magic” of the Olympics. He wants greater flexibility by allowing a region or even in some cases adjoining countries to share the hosting of the Games.

Clearly mindful of the previous problems of the IOC as well as the appalling mess in which FIFA is currently mired, he proposes the members of the Ethics Commission should be elected by the IOC Session and not by the Executive Board. And with the memories over the homophobic controversy of the Sochi Winter Olympics, it has been recommended that there will be greater clarity over the need for human rights to be observed because sexual orientation will be overtly included rather than just implied.

Dr. Bach also put some emphasis on the responsibility of the Olympic Movement to get “couch potatoes off the couch. Only children can be future athletes.”

As the IOC votes today and tomorrow on the Agenda 2020, Dr. Bach has likened it to a “jig-saw puzzle” in which only when all 40 pieces are put together, does one see the whole picture. As he said, the Olympic Movement has opened itself up to innovation with more than 40,000 contributions producing more than 1200 ideas.  Dr. Bach should be congratulated on having the initiative to having embraced such change and progress so swiftly after taking office.

** 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 · Olympics · Monaco · Thomas Bach · IOC · John Goodbody

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