New I.O.C. president makes Sochi a priority
On Sept. 10, during the 125th Session of the International Olympic Committee, which took place in Buenos Aires, German Thomas Bach became the ninth president of the I.O.C. Bach beat out five other candidates, including Russian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka. Bach called the day "one of the longest and most emotional" of his life. "In sports, the winner is obvious right away,” Bach said, “but we had to wait a whole hour.”
Bach was a member of the German fencing team that won gold in Montreal in 1976. He replaced Jacques Rogge, the Belgian who had led the I.O.C. since 2001, as IOC president. In a statement after his election, Bach said: "Of course, the Olympic Games in Sochi are the main task at the beginning of my journey, because the event is just five months away. I will put forward maximum effort to see that the Olympic Games in Sochi are successful.”
One of the first things the 59-year-old Bavarian did after he began his new position was to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his work. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman said: "The president praised the work of the I.O.C. in preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014. We agreed that Bach would visit Russia, and in the course of this visit we would continue our dialogue.”
However, Bach’s first official visit as I.O.C. head will not be to Sochi – he will instead go to Greece to personally witness the lighting of the Olympic flame on Mount Olympus.
But Vitaly Smirnov, honorary president of the Russian Olympic Committee told Russian journalists that Bach’s visit to Russia has already been planned. “It is important that an Olympic champion will head the I.O.C. for the first time in history, so we are very happy," Smirnov said.
For Russia, the 125th session of the International Olympic Committee was marked by another important event: Alexander Zhukov, head of the of the Russian Olympic Committee, was elected as a member of the I.O.C. He will be the fourth Russian representative to the I.O.C., joining Vitaly Smirnov, president of the Russian Tennis Federation Shamil Tarpishchev and four-time Olympic swimming champion Alexander Popov.
Zhukov is confident that Thomas Bach will continue the course of development that was laid out by Rogge. "Thomas Bach, is, of course, an extremely worthy candidate. The course that has been set in recent years by Rogge, who certainly was a very successful president, will be continued by Bach," Zhukov said. "I have known Bach for a long time, he is a very serious person. He is a winner in his heart, as is any Olympic champion. It is impossible to become an Olympic champion without drive. He is very experienced, a good diplomat, and very well acquainted with the Olympic movement and sports. I am sure that the Olympic movement will continue to develop with his election."
Bach, answering questions from reporters, confirmed that he will continue to pursue a tough policy on the fight against corruption and doping. In particular, he offered to work more closely with governments around the world and Interpol to pursue cases of bribing officials and match fixing, as well as to toughen legislation in necessary areas.