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SBD Global/September 12, 2013/Olympics

New IOC President Thomas Bach Calls Sochi 'Most Important Issue' With Rio Looming

New IOC President calls Sochi Olymipcs 'most important issue.'
Newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach "announced in his first press conference a change of course at the organization," according to the DPA. The 59-year-old German lawyer "wants to make the well-being of athletes the IOC's top priority again." In addition, he "wants to develop the IOC into a stronger social power." Bach: "We have to realize what the IOC can do, what it can't do and what's its purpose. The IOC can't be apolitical." He added, "We have to acknowledge that the Olympic Games have political implications. But to fulfill our role, we have to be politically neutral." Shortly after winning the IOC presidential election on Tuesday, Bach "received a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin." Bach said, "He congratulated me and promised me close collaboration to make sure the Sochi Games will be a success." The "problem-prone" Winter Games, which will take place in Sochi from Feb. 7-23, "will be Bach's first challenge." The preparations for the Sochi Games "are overshadowed by terrorist threats, human-rights violations and a huge outcry over Russia's controversial anti-gay laws." Therefore, Bach "will waste no time and dive into the new position as fast as possible." Bach: "The most important issue is Sochi. There are only five months left" (DPA, 9/11).

EARLY TEST: The AP reported Bach "will be tested quickly by two troublesome Olympics: the Winter Games less than five months away in the southern Russian resort of Sochi, and the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro" -- still three years away "but setting off alarms." Bach: "We have the assurance of the highest authorities in Russia that we trust." Other concerns of the Sochi Games are "cost overruns" with a budget topping $50B. Rio "looms large after Sochi." IOC inspectors visiting just more than a week ago said that "slow progress was being made in preparations for the 2016 Games and warned that things need to be speeded up." Bach said, "We are three years ... from Rio and we will make sure that we have very close coordination with the organizing committee, and also with the governmental authorities. There are, of course, some issues" (AP, 9/11). The AP also reported Bach said that "he wants to change the bidding process for future Olympics and make sustainable development a key priority" (AP, 9/11).

CONGRATS COMING IN: The London TELEGRAPH reported British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe believes Bach is the "perfect choice." Coe: "He will be standing on the shoulders of past Olympic giants and following in the footsteps of another president with athletes at heart. The IOC and the wider movement can be confident that in moving forward they have a new IOC president who sees the Games through the eyes of competitors" (TELEGRAPH, 9/11). In Singapore, Marc Lim reported Kuwaiti IOC member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said that Bach "deserves all the credit for a well-run campaign" (STRAITS TIMES, 9/11).

WHAT NEXT? In Munich, Klaus Hoeltzenbein opined "not offering a target; that was the fencing tactic that Bach used to become IOC president." But "what's his program?" It "has not been apparent yet." The IOC "has a new president, but it doesn't get a new program or fresh ideas with it." So far, there "only has been this puzzling slogan, which Bach used for his campaign: 'Unity through diversity.'" He "never publicly said what he wants, what he plans." Bach "will have to open his visor, from now on he will be globally judged." His presidency "comes with challenges and dangers." He "does not only have to protect the IOC and its Olympic Games from doping and illegal betting, but also from national absorption and the first test is already awaiting him with the Sochi Winter Games in February" (SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, 9/11).
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