Last week in Buenos Aires, the International Olympic Committee elected Thomas Bach, a German Olympian, as its new President. He succeeds Jacques Rogge from Belgium who stepped down after twelve years of leadership.
Many insiders pegged Bach as the early “favorite” to win the election against some recognizable opponents. He won the election on the second ballot with 49 votes (a winning majority) over the runner up, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico. As an interesting side note, Sergey Bubka, the Russian pole vaulter, garnered 4 votes on the final ballot. With the Winter Games hosted by Russia in February 2014 and with Vladimir Putin’s personal involvement in the Games, some eastern Europeans wanted Bubka to win the leadership role.
One of the first issues facing Mr. Bach, who received a phone call from Putin shortly after the election, is Western backlash to a Russian law against “gay” propaganda. Putin has assured the IOC that there would be no discrimination against anyone or any group in Sochi. The IOC has been criticized for not speaking out against human rights abuses in countries like Russia and China. The IOC has insisted to all countries that the Olympic Charter be respected and the IOC tries desperately (at least publicly) to remain politically neutral.
Bach is a former Olympic gold medalist whose sport was fencing. He has also served as head of the German Olympic Committee. Bach is the ninth person to head the International Olympic Committee in its 119 year history. Eight of the nine IOC presidents have come from Europe. The only non-European to hold the office was an American, Avery Brundage who headed the IOC from 1952 to 1972.
As a footnote, the IOC also selected Tokyo as host city for the 2020 Olympics winning over favored Istanbul and Madrid.