For some time, Thomas Bach has been the man who would be king, long seen as Jacques Rogge’s obvious successor as president of the International Olympic Committee. Now he is the IOC’s new lord of the rings, someone who has likened the job to that of a conductor in an orchestra. Having taken over from Rogge, he has promised to “conduct the IOC in this way of participation, dialogue, consensus and motivation”. Here are the main issues he will have to deal with...
1. Sochi and Russia’s anti-gay laws
An already simmering subject that shows no signs of going away, Russia’s anti-gay law entails heavy fines for anyone providing information about homosexuality to people under 18. The subject reared its head in Moscow at the World Athletics Championships as some athletes dared to question the law and, as the world’s sporting eyes turn on Sochi for next year’s Winter Olympics, the issue will come into even greater focus. Rogge has already sought assurances from organisers that “everyone will be welcome in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation”, but his successor faces even closer scrutiny on the subject.
2. The 2016 Rio Olympics
How does the Olympic movement follow London 2012, which was a resounding global sporting success? Well, Rio de Janeiro has been given the opportunity to do that and already the build up has not been without its difficulties. Whereas, on the whole, the building projects ran on time for London, there is a genuine sense that Brazilian organisers are lagging behind in terms of getting the infrastructure in place in time to host the 31st Olympiad, particularly with next year’s World Cup being a more imminent sporting focus for the nation. The Games may be three years away but the issue is a pressing one.
3. The on-going fight against doping
A key factor of the Rogge era was the IOC’s fight against doping and a zero-tolerance approach being pushed by its president. Under Bach, expect more of the same. He was behind the report that exposed a systemic programme of doping by West German officials and athletes earlier in the summer. At the time, Bach announced it as “a good day for the fight against doping”. The more immediate issue is the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg in November where the World Anti-Doping Code will be approved, which will see a return to four-year bans and potential punishment for the entourage around the sporting cheats.
4. Putting his own stamp on the role
Every presidential era is defined by certain strands. For Rogge, among other things, it has been reforming a body following bribery controversy, cleaning up the sport amid doping scandals and also pushing for more women in sport across the globe. For all his electioneering – and it has been a long campaign by Bach against his rivals – it remains to be seen what will end up being the core issues of his reign in one of the most influential roles in global sport. He will want to follow the good work of Rogge, who has long been an ally, but he will also seek to stand on his own two feet and steer the IOC in his own inimitable way.
5. Reaching out to the world, especially the young
The IOC has been pushing to get more young people into Olympic sport, whether as spectators or competitors, for a long time, and youth remains a key focus. But to get them on board, an often closed-doors body in many ways needs to become both more approachable and more understandable. For all his obvious power and influence, for much of the wider public Rogge has remained an unknown, almost invisible man. The IOC needs to sell itself more in the wider world. What price then on the prospect of a first tweeting IOC president?