SBD/September 11, 2013/Olympics

Bach Faces Major Challenges As IOC President, Including Russian Law, Rio Struggles

Bach becomes the eighth European white male to serve as IOC president
A "serious challenge" that newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach immediately faces is how the organization "deals with all the issues related to ... Russia's recent anti-gay legislation," according to Philip Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The Sochi Games are just five months away, and the IOC has been "slow to recognize the level of concern the Russian law has caused in many western nations." It also "has not formulated a plan for dealing with any Sochi Olympian who chooses to make or wear a show of support for Russia's LGBT community or gay rights that could be viewed as a violation of the Olympic charter." Bach, who becomes the eighth white European man to serve as IOC president, said that this "was not the time to discuss the details of how the IOC will handle such incidents, but he clearly sees the need to let athletes and their national Olympic committees know in advance what to expect." Bach said, "We will follow our values and the Olympic charter to make sure the Olympic Games and the participants in the Olympic Games can compete and participate without discrimination." Hersh notes the USOC is "waiting for IOC guidance on the matter." USOC Chair Larry Probst yesterday said that he "may discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting with Bach" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/11). IOC Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg has said that corporate sponsors, "particularly those based in the United States, are worried that protests by athletes, spectators and other visitors could overshadow the Games" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/11).

FULL PLATE: Bach minutes after the results of the election were announced said that "re-examining which sports to include in the Summer Games was near the top of his agenda." Bach: "The sports program is a priority. As we have seen from this session, it's a rather complicated problem." IOC member Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah said that Bach "must clarify the qualities a sport needs to be considered for the Games" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/11). Meanwhile, Bach discusses how he is going to solve the challenges associated with the '16 Rio Games, saying, "We have many big challenges in a world changing faster than ever. In Rio we are expecting excellent Games in 2016. We have to work very closely with the organizing committee and the political authorities and communicate well what the benefits of the Olympics are in Rio de Janeiro for the population there, to make it clear with the Olympic Village there will be new, affordable housing. There will be better infrastructure" (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).
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