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Volume 20 No. 41
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Bach energizes IOC membership

International Olympic Committee member Jean-Claude Killy stood in the lobby of the Radisson Blu last week and talked enthusiastically about his time in Sochi.

“We have a new energy,” Killy said.

The new energy Killy spoke of can be traced to the Feb. 4-7 IOC Session in the days preceding the official opening of the Sochi Games. It was President Thomas Bach’s first as head of the IOC, and it gave members their first exposure to his leadership style.

New IOC President Thomas Bach
Bach encouraged all members, including new ones, to offer their opinions, and he devoted an entire day to discussing “Olympic Agenda 2020,” an effort to make a number of changes to the IOC’s approach to bidding and organizing the Olympics.

“It’s a different type of person with a different type of leadership,” said Rene Fasel, an IOC member and the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation. “I like it. I was very happy with [former President] Jacques [Rogge’s] approach. I appreciate that Thomas is looking for dialogue and trying


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to change things.”

Change is not a word heard often at the IOC Session. The organization generally embraces the status quo and hasn’t made many major changes over the last decade. But Bach is pushing for it, and he’s encouraging all the members to contribute.

The changes being considered include allowing two cities or even two countries to jointly host a Summer or Winter Games, creating a more flexible system to add new sports to the Olympics, and launching an Olympic network.

A series of commissions have been created to evaluate potential changes. The commissions are expected to put forward proposals later this year that will be voted on at an IOC Session in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in early December.

Members have embraced Bach’s effort to make changes as well as his leadership style. Killy said that Rogge in 2001 was able to come in after the Salt Lake City scandal and create new safeguards to restore credibility and stability to the IOC, which was what the organization needed at the time. Bach is “young, smart, energetic and he knows the business inside out,” which is what the organization needs now, Killy said.

“We change habits, techniques,” he said. “It’s a leap forward.”

The differences between Bach and his predecessor extend beyond his leadership style. At an event where IOC sponsor McDonald’s dedicated a playground, Bach spent nearly 20 minutes afterward helping children down the slide and riding a carousel with them. It was the type of thing his more reserved and sometimes shy predecessor never would have done.

The combination of his new approach, which encourages member contributions, and the success of the Sochi Games, which concerned many before it began, had most IOC members optimistic about the future of the Olympics.

“The beginning of December will be extraordinary,” said Sergey Bubka, an IOC member from Ukraine. “We will build a road map for the future. You need to listen to people. You need to build steps ahead. We are doing that.”