Thomas Bach said Friday he will stand in 2021 for a second term as president of the International Olympic Committee, admitting however there is “no solution today” to the challenges posed by coronavirus to the postponed Tokyo Games.
The 66-year-old German was elected for an eight-year term as Olympic chief in September 2013, taking over from Belgian Jacques Rogge. Bach will be eligible for a second and final four-year term.
Speaking at an IOC Session held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bach said: “If you, the IOC members, want, I am ready to run for a second term as IOC president and to continue to serve you and this Olympic movement we all love so much for another four years.”
The IOC presidential elections are slated to take place in Athens in June 2021.
Bach, who won gold for West Germany in the foil fencing team event at the 1976 Olympics, claimed a large number of IOC members had recently approached him asking if he would seek re-election.
“I am grateful and deeply touched by the many words of encouragement and confidence,” Bach said.
Turning to the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed in March until July 2021, Bach expressed hope that they could be “a unique milestone for the entire world”.
“They will be the first worldwide gathering after coronavirus.”
But Bach warned that the unprecedented health situation meant multiple scenarios were being considered in planning the format for Tokyo.
“There is no solution today, it is too much (to be) expected,” he said.
Bach said the scenario of holding the Games without spectators was one that had been examined, although he stressed that he was opposed to the idea.
“It’s one of the scenarios we have to look in to because the debate has to do with travel restrictions and quarantine.
“It’s too early to tell (if there will be no spectators). It’s not what we want. We want stadia full of enthusiastic fans.”
Tokyo 2020 organisers said Friday they had secured all the venues needed to hold the Olympics next summer, clearing a major hurdle to hosting the event.
They added that refunds for ticketholders unable to attend the rescheduled games will begin in late 2020.
– Influential –
Bach was elected an IOC member at the age of 37 and went on to play a series of influential roles within the organisation before being elected its ninth president.
Under his reign as IOC chief, Bach has had to grapple with several political challenges, and has notably overseen the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Games, both perceived as the most troublesome in recent years.
He has also been a key player in the ongoing Russian doping saga, although the IOC came in for criticism from some quarters for not issuing Moscow with a blanket ban over its state-sponsored doping system.
Bach also came under fire for reinstating the Russian National Olympic Committee after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics despite failed drugs tests there.
He is credited, however, with having put in place the Olympic Agenda 2020, reforms aimed at cutting costs and streamlining bidding processes to better attract potential host cities.
But the German lawyer and businessman could well have his biggest challenge ahead of him, in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Beijing scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympics just six months after the proposed Tokyo Games.
The IOC Session also saw Sebastian Coe, the head of World Athletics, voted in as an IOC member after being turned down several times.
Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500 metres champion for Britain who became head of track and field’s world governing body in 2015, was blocked from membership as recently as December over a conflict of interest.
But Coe changed his role at the marketing company he is currently running as managing director to a passive position, thus paving the way to IOC membership.
Coe’s belated entry into the IOC club is significant because he has been mentioned as a potential future president of the Olympic movement.
“Thank you to all of you who voted for our sport, our federation ioc today,” said Coe.
“I look forward, our whole sport looks forward, to working even more closely with all of you in reforming and building all sports because at this time, of all times, the need for community in elite sport to thrive and flourish is probably never more important.”
As Coe signed his IOC oath, Bach let slip a telling greeting: “Finally, welcome!”