Thomas Bach elected: Despite accusations of cheating - the rise of the new IOC president has been meticulous

The German former fencer replaces Jacques Rogge at the helm of the Olympic Committee

Matt Majendie
Tuesday 10 September 2013 17:15
President of the IOC Jacques Rogge receives the Olympic Order from newly announced ninth IOC President Thomas Bach
President of the IOC Jacques Rogge receives the Olympic Order from newly announced ninth IOC President Thomas Bach

For some time, Thomas Bach has been the man that would be king, long seen as Jacques Rogge’s obvious successor as president of the International Olympic Committee.

When he was voted vice-president for a third time to Rogge in 2010, no rivals stood in his way. This time around - in the election in Buenos Aires - there were five but the outcome was just the same, Bach continuing his impeccable record of electioneering.

So, the IOC has a new lord of the rings, who has likened the job to that of a conductor in an orchestra. Having taken over the baton from Rogge, the man with the musical surname has promised to “conduct the IOC in this way of participation, dialogue, consensus and motivation”.

Bach compared the election itself to an Olympic final and he should know having won gold at the 1976 Games as part of the German foil fencing team. That sporting past initially aided his cause but also threatened to derail him at the last minute following a documentary airing in his native Germany.

In it, he was accused of using a wet glove in his competing days in a bid to upset the electronic sensors and thereby to gain an advantage by cheating. That and other accusations, such as appearing in the files of the Stasi, the former East German police, have been dismissed as nonsense.

What is clear is that his rise to the top has been meticulous and backed by the key figures from the very start. He joined the IOC aged 37 with the backing of Rogge’s predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch. He has enjoyed the support - behind closed doors admittedly - of Rogge and, perhaps more crucially, Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad al-Sabah.

Al-Sabah is something of an IOC powerbroker and was deemed key in Tokyo winning the right to host the 2020 Olympics. From the outset, he has made his backing for Bach clear, breaking IOC rules and having his knuckles rapped by the body in the process.

Bach was the first candidate to put his hat in the ring for this presidential election, announcing his plans as early as May under the banner of “Unity in Diversity”. Some suggested it was too early but like a fencer (a sport he took up aged five) - judging by the result - he obviously knew the right time to strike.

The one negative was that he had such strong and influential backing that it created almost the opposite effect with an Anybody but Bach movement emerging among IOC members but, in the end, not enough.

Work wise, his background is in law but he also worked for adidas and since built up an impressive reputation in business. German magazine Der Spiegel has accused Bach of using his contacts within the IOC to try to win investment from Kuwait in a project for Siemens, for whom he has done consultancy work. For his part, Bach has denied any wrongdoing and nothing negative has stuck on his frankly impeccable CV.

His sphere of influence in sport is now immense but has been strong for some time. He was first on the IOC executive board in 1996, has negotiated European TV rights deals and chaired the juridicial and sport and law commissions, as well as the anti-doping disciplinary commissions. He has also been president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation since 2006, and was a member of the supervisory board of the Fifa 2006 World Cup organising committee.

His rise to the top brought an end to the big decisions at the 125th IOC session and it has proved to be one devoid of surprises, wrestling winning its place back on the Olympic schedule, Tokyo being announced as Olympic hosts and the overwhelming favourite in Bach also leaving Argentina triumphant.

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