I read the news on Wednesday, oh boy - 95 words precisely, in my newspaper at least, on those 40 landmark Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations.

'What is wrong with these people?' I thought. 'Don't they recognise the importance of a sports movement powerful enough to redraw the map of London?'

Then I reflected: if you take the 40 recommendations at face value, 95 words is probably about what they are worth for a mainstream news organisation.

A blueprint to make bidding for and staging the Olympic Games a slightly less daunting, slightly less costly process, and to inject slightly more flexibility into the way the sports programme is chosen, is hardly calculated to set pulses racing around the breakfast tables of Peoria or Antananarivo.

Even the most eye-catching proposal - recommendation 19: "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) to launch an Olympic Channel" - is something it should have done years ago.

The proposals, if passed next month, will pave the way for some useful innovations, but Thomas Bach's five-ring revolution it ain't.

I don't blame the IOC President for this.

As his compatriot Otto von Bismarck observed, politics is the art of the possible.

It would be disastrous for Bach, little more than a year into his tenure, were he to advocate a truly radical series of reforms and then get shot down in flames.

Furthermore, whatever may have been written in recent months as the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics has disintegrated before our eyes, the Olympic model is far from broken.

The Movement generated more than $8 billion (£5 billion/€6.5 billion) from broadcasting, sponsorship, ticketing and licensing in the four year cycle culminating with the London 2012 Games.

What is true is that the broadcasting and international sponsorship revenues that play such an important part in funding National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Sports Federations (IFs) are set to pause for breath in the 2013-2016 quadrennium.

Instead, the main engine of growth looks set to be local sponsorship - but these proceeds are earmarked chiefly for the countries where the Games are staged, in this case Russia and Brazil.

So there is no crisis - but what is also self-evident, at least to me, is that the Movement has a structural problem that these recommendations will do, to use the technical term, diddly-squat to address.

The structural problem is that the Winter Games is not a global event because vast sweeps of the globe scarcely ever experience snow and ice.

So as a marketing platform for host countries they are far less powerful than their Summer counterpart.

And yet the hassle factor for the host population is nearly as great.

The solution is obvious.

No, nothing to do with the Jamaican bobsled team.

They should simply move some indoor disciplines with fans in lands where the water never freezes from the bursting-at-the-seams Summer Games to Winter.

Volleyball, for me, would be one strong candidate to make the switch; boxing another.

And why not offer sports, such as squash and karate, which have been battering at Lausanne's door in a so far unsuccessful attempt to get into the Olympics, the opportunity to join the Winter programme?

You get some idea of why Agenda 2020 has steered clear of this sort of thing, if you remember what happened to poor old Brian new-kid-on-the-block Cookson, President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), when he had the temerity earlier this year to suggest something similar.

"Let's think about the Winter Olympics," Cookson said. "Why does it have to be snow and ice?

"If you have a problem with Summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as overheated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not look at moving some of the other sports indoors that traditionally take place in the northern hemisphere winter?

"Why not look at combat sports like judo, or other indoor sports like badminton?

"You could even say what about putting track cycling in the Winter Olympics?"

I agree with almost every word of that; yet poor old Cookson ended up having to apologise to International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer - and I can see why - for talking about sports other than cycling.

But if Agenda 2020 is not a suitable forum for giving such ideas a serious airing, you have to wonder what is.

The Winter Games has, I think, one other shot at gingering up interest in its rather jaded concept and producing a more competitive race for 2026, and that is if there is a strong southern hemisphere candidate.

But that would be a short-term fix.

The fundamental problem - that the cost-benefit analysis is not nearly as attractive as for a Summer Games while you do not have a genuinely global product - will remain.

Don't get me wrong: there are a fair few things in these 40 recommendations that it will be good to have: non-discrimination on sexual orientation as a fundamental principle; stronger relationships with organisations managing sport for people with different abilities; proper ceremonies for athletes who win medals after the event as a consequence of disqualifications; an insistence that Olympic Movement organisations comply with basic principles of good governance (though there is nothing about what the consequences would be if they don't).

But there is much that seems vague (recommendation 28 on the key issue of autonomy); little flashes of the old self-indulgence (is it really necessary to spell out quite so baldly that "the field of play for the athletes to always be state-of-the-art for all competitions"?); and the odd line that is plain silly (is the IOC's "ultimate goal" really "to protect clean athletes", as recommendation 15 would have it? I'm not saying that's not important, but I'd have thought its "ultimate goal" was to organise outstanding Games).

The other short-term problem that I fancy the IOC may now face is that if the mainstream media judges the content of Agenda 2020 to be worth only 95 words of its real estate, it may focus instead on where next month's Session, at which the members will pass their verdict, is taking place.

Monte Carlo, with its casino and luxury car showrooms, is a delightful place; but it is not necessarily the ideal backdrop for an organisation at present struggling to convince people that it is in tune with these waste-averse, exceptionally cost-conscious times.


An important year for the Olympic Movement has just passed. The IOC Session in Buenos Aires was one of the most eventful in our 119-year history, with the selection of a Host City, a vote on the composition of the Olympic Programme, and the election of a new International Olympic Committee President.

It was a great honour to have been granted the responsibility of leading the IOC on 10 September. Thanks to the legacy of IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge our organisation is healthy. We are now beginning to build our future on this solid foundation.

The year ahead is shaping up to be a significant one for the Olympic Movement. We have a great deal to look forward to in 2014, first of all the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in February, and also the Nanjing Summer Youth Olympic Games in August. After visiting each city and meeting with the respective organisers last year, I am confident that both will be excellent events of the highest quality.

In Sochi the athletes will once again discover the magic of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Villages. They will experience first-hand the ability of the Olympic Games to build bridges and break down walls. In turn, the athletes will share this magic with the rest of the world by bringing the Olympic values to life both on and off the field of play. This will be their time to shine. We must ensure that nothing interferes with them realising their full potential on the world’s biggest sporting stage. The Sochi Olympic Games should be a demonstration of unity in diversity and of remarkable athletic achievements – not a platform for politics or division. This is even more important after the cowardly terrorist attacks in Russia which we utterly condemn. Terrorism must never triumph. We trust that the Russian authorities will deliver safe and secure Olympic Winter Games for all athletes and all participants.

Nanjing will provide us with an early opportunity to move in a new direction. Last month, the IOC Executive Board agreed to allow some new sports and disciplines not currently on the Olympic Programme – sport climbing, roller sports and skateboarding, as well as wushu, which had already been approved – to be showcased at the Youth Olympic Games this summer.

In order to enhance our fight on behalf of clean athletes we have increased the number of pre-competition tests for Sochi 2014 by 57 per cent compared to Vancouver 2010.

The IOC Executive Board has created a fund of USD 10 million to be used, in particular, for better scientific research in the field of anti-doping, and another fund of USD 10 million to better protect clean athletes from any kind of manipulation and related corruption.

More changes in the Olympic Movement over the next few years are necessary and will need to be discussed by us all. Since September I have initiated a dialogue on major themes outlined in my electoral platform with the five other presidential candidates, IOC members and the broader Olympic family. This dialogue has already generated a number of important ideas that will form the basis of the Olympic Agenda 2020, a road map for the Olympic Movement under the leadership of the IOC that we aim to have finalised by the end of 2014.

Our discussions have centred on three major themes: sustainability, credibility, and youth, thereby addressing the main topics of preserving the uniqueness of the Olympic Games; focusing on the athletes as the heart of the Olympic Movement; fostering Olympism year-round; defining the role of the IOC; and improving the structure and organisation of the IOC.

The next step will be for all IOC members to debate the ideas emerging from a four-day brainstorming meeting of the IOC Executive Board. This debate will take place at the IOC Session ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. The process is expected to culminate in Monaco on 6 and 7 December 2014 when the Olympic Agenda 2020 will be presented for final approval to an IOC Extraordinary Session.

This dialogue remains open to the diverse voices and opinions of all Olympic Movement stakeholders. I thank you all  in advance for your active participation in these discussions for the sake of a bright future for our Olympic Movement.

Happy New Year 2014!

Thomas Bach


September 10 - A mood of resigned acceptance hung over the defeated candidates as they offered their congratulations to Germany's Thomas Bach following his election as the ninth International Olympic Committee (IOC) President here today.

After leading the way in the first round of voting with 43 votes, Bach's victory was confirmed with 49 out of 93 total votes in the second round as he finished ahead of Puerto Rico's Richard Carrion.

Although Bach had been the favourite from the start of the application process earlier this year his triumph was not considered absolutely inevitable and his rivals had begun the day with plenty of confidence.

"I am disappointed as I thought I had a realistic chance," admitted runner-up Carrion.

"But I am not sorry because I gave it my best and it was just not good enough.

"I knew it would have to go a few rounds if I was to win - that was my plan.

"Yet it was the choice of the session, which is supreme and we are now united all behind him and will do what we can for the benefit of the Olympic Movement."

Carrion then showed his lighter side despite his defeat when he was asked if he had "enjoyed " the campaigning process.

"Enjoyed is not a word which comes to mind at this point," he chuckled.

"I would have enjoyed it a little more if I had won the gold medal and I will have to go on a diet now after all those campaigning dinners in the build-up."

Carrion's insistence that everybody would unite behind President Bach was repeated by Taiwan's CK Wu, the candidate defeated in the first round of the election.

Wu admitted that "every time after an election there will be some division and differences of opinion."

Yet he insisted that now the election had been completed "everyone will come back together and work for the benefit of the Olympic Movement."

Similar sentiments were also offered by Ukraine's Sergey Bubka, who finished last in the final round of voting after placing third in the opening round.

"I congratulate Bach and wish him good luck and I look forward to working together with him," he said.

"I had an ambition and I presented my vision and ideas.

"But I am very happy and It was very helpful for the future.

"I have head a great time and have gained many unforgettable experiences."

Sergey Bubka was another to be disappointed after finishing in fifth place in the final round of the Presidential raceSergey Bubka was disappointed but also happy to have had "unforgettable experiences" after finishing in fifth place in the final round of the Presidential race

Ireland's Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees and a close ally of Bach's described feeling "thrilled" at the result.

He added that Bach will be a "great leader" who is "exactly what the IOC needs at the moment."

Panama's Meliton Sanchez Rivas explained similarly how after "devoting his life to sport in Germany and all over the world as well as the Olympic Movement", Bach is the right man for the job.

"The IOC is such a complicated Movement which is so much more than just a Games, so it is important to maintain a balance and Bach does this better than anyone else," he added.

Bach's status as a former fencer and Olympic champion who another factor that may have swayed several voters and Cuba's volleyball player cum member Yumilka Ruíz Luaces was one of those expressing delight that a fellow former athlete had emerged triumphant.

Thomas Bach being congratulated by IOC members following his popular victoryThomas Bach being congratulated by IOC members following his popular victory

The final word of the day, however, went to one of Bach's staunchest supporters in Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah.

The Sheikh, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), said that he was "very happy to see a new President elected in such a democratic way", even though his support of Bach throughout the campaign caused controversy with some IOC members.

"It is good for stability and for him to get the support of such a large part of the house," he said.

"You never know what is going to happen in an election and I believe that the IOC made the right decision."

"It has been a good week for everyone who has supported Tokyo, wrestling and Bach."


September 9 - Denis Oswald has received a slap over the wrist for publicly criticising fellow International Olympic Committee (IOC) Presidential candidate Thomas Bach on the eve of the election here tomorrow.

The IOC Ethics Commission reminded Oswald of the rules of conduct after he had appeared on Swiss radio and hit out at the help Bach's campaign is receiving from Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

Oswald told radio stations RTS that some IOC members had concerns about the alliance the two have formed.

"It is up to the members to make their choice," said the 66-year-old Oswald, who is considered the outsider in the six-man race to replace Jacques Rogge.

"Certain of them are annoyed by the agreements that have been struck between Kuwait and Bach...and also the pressure being brought to bear by the German political authorities, which one cannot ignore.

"Certain members believe that it is not really very democratic and that could have an opposite effect on Bach's election chances.

"I am no longer the age where I believe in Father Christmas."

Oswald was asked whether he planned to withdraw from the campaign.

"Certainly not in the case of Thomas Bach!" he told RTS.

"I don't believe he and I share the same values!

"What I hear...is he is implicated in commercial affairs.

"He uses his position to his benefit so that he can gain contracts for the companies he represents."

Bach, 59, claimed that he had not heard the remarks.

Earlier Bach had found himself the focus of old allegations made in a German television documentary and repeated in the British media about his time as a fencer - he was a member of the German team that won the Olympic gold medal at Montreal in 1976 - and working for Adidas.

A spokesman claimed the accusations were "nonsense".

Oswald later apologised for his remarks about Bach.

"Mr Oswald admitted that he said more than he had intended to and expressed his regrets to the IOC," a spokeswoman said.

Bach remains the frontrunner to be elected tomorrow with his closest challengers expected to be Singapore's Ser Miang Ng and Puerto Rico's Richard Carrion with Ukraine's Sergey Bubka and Taiwan's C K Wu also standing.


September 9 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s TOP worldwide sponsorship programme is set to generate a record $1 billion (£636 million/€755 million)-plus in the 2013-2016 quadrennium, with the prospect of more deals still to come.

Timo Lumme, the IOC's television and marketing director, told insidethegames that, with some five months to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, the running total for the current TOP programme was over $1 billion (£636 million/€755 million) in cash and value-in-kind, with 10 partners having signed up.

Lumme also disclosed that the IOC was actively working on two further partnerships.

These could, in the most favourable circumstances, take TOP revenues for the Sochi 2014-Rio 2016 Olympic quadrennium to within range of $1.2 billion (£763 million/€908 million), compared with $950 million (£604 million/€717 million) in 2009-2012.

Such an advance would be welcome at a time when the rate of growth in IOC broadcasting revenues has slowed markedly in relation to the big jump achieved in 2014-2016.

One of the possible new deals is likely to be in the computing/information technology area, and looks set to cover Rio 2016 only.

With technology converging at a rapid rate, the parameters of such a deal would probably be broader than past TOP programme computer agreements, however.

"I think the days of having a stand-alone computer category are probably gone," Lumme said.

He also explained that Samsung, the IOC's TOP partner in the wireless communications category, had signed a local extension covering laptops and PCs for the Sochi Games.

For Rio 2016, Lumme said, "everything is still possible".

The 10 TOP sponsors already signed up for 2014-2016 are Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung and Visa.

The programme has grown enormously since it began by generating $96 million (£61 million/€72 million) for the IOC in the 1985-1988 quadrennium.

In recent years, however, this explosive initial growth has inevitably slowed.


More Articles ...