BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – Germany’s Thomas Bach was elected president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday, succeeding Belgian Jacques Rogge and maintaining a European stranglehold on the most powerful position in world sport.
Bach, 59, the first Olympic champion to head the IOC, is the ninth president only in the body’s 119-year history and the eighth European IOC leader.
Avery Brundage of the United States was the only outsider to break the monopoly, heading the IOC from 1952-1972 .
“I want to be president of all of you,” the German beamed as IOC members applauded the decision before hugging and kissing their colleague. “This is a really overwhelming sign of trust and confidence.”
“There are really high emotions right now,” Bach told international news agencies minutes later.
“To feel this great support from all the IOC members is overwhelming. I cannot describe it,” said Bach, who had been in tears moments earlier when hugging his wife and close associates.
Asked what his first task was, Bach, who has also worked for sporting goods manufacturer adidas in the 1980s, replied: “The first challenge will be to celebrate. We have the challenge of organising the Sochi Winter Games. We have to prepare well and I am sure they will be great Games.”
Bach, who has pledged to reform the structure of the Games and the bidding procedure for the Olympics to attract more candidates, is also eager to boost the number of sports in the world’s biggest multi-sports event.
“It is the first time an Olympic champion has been elected IOC president,” Bach said. “I will put sport in the centre of all our attention.”
The first German to run a major international sports body, Bach will have to go straight to work with the Sochi Olympics, starting in February, under international scrutiny over a controversial Russian anti-gay propaganda law.
In addition the 2016 summer Games in Rio de Janeiro are plagued by delays with the IOC eager to see work sped up.
Outgoing president Rogge was confident Bach would “do a good job.”
“I’m very happy that we will have a very good next president of the IOC and I am glad and proud to be able to hand him over an IOC that is in a good state,” he said.
“I wish he will be successful in the challenges he will have to face in the future.