David Miller reports from Sochi
Asked what is his greatest expectation for the Winter Games, at the conclusion of the
Session, Thomas Bach answered unhesitatingly: “It’s all about athletes — and clean
athletes.” As an Olympic fencing champion, he senses that the prime concern, of both
honest competitors and the public, is that the credibility of performances in the next two
weeks are above suspicion. It is only by integrity that the Games will survive.
Repeatedly over the past week the IOC President has been pestered by questions on
Russia’s homosexual legislation and repeatedly has answered that the the IOC’s position is
unequivocally stated in the Charter: zero discrimination of any form. To further
insinuations at today’s media conference, he remained adamant: that the IOC is not some
supra-national government ready to intervene in domestic affairs, that the Olympics and
all involved can only give a message by the example in which the Games and all involved
Pressed about the views of athletes with whom he had spoken, Bach ventured to say
that some were reluctant to express their feelings in either way, they feeling that the
specific social/political debate that has punctuated recent weeks and months is an
unwelcome diversion from the reason why they are here — for mutual, intense,
nondiscriminatory, amicable rivalry.
Reflecting on the Session, the Bach considered it to have been “happy, dynamic,
constructive”, and to have been an excellent start to exploring a diversity of opinions on
how the Games, and the IOC, can be modernized and improved. “And now I’m excited
about the prospect of the Opening Ceremony and two weeks of great sport, with record TV
broadcasts to over 200 countries with 75,000 hours screen time, more even than for
Beijing in 2008”.
He is not, he insisted, frustrated by absentee heads of state : that was up to them,
and he regretted anyone making statements on the backs of the athletes. As for the
hundreds of proposals coming from members for the future, he quipped that if he knew the
answers and thought he could have imposed them “If I would have known I didn’t need the
This story was originally written in the Sport Intern and is republished with permission from Karl-Heinz Huba.