BUENOS AIRES: The six candidates bidding to be elected to the most powerful position in sport as president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) girded their loins for one final day of campaigning on Monday in Buenos Aires.
Unassuming Belgian Jacques Rogge will step down on Tuesday after a 12-year reign in what has been a largely successful term having notably been credited with restoring the image of the organization.
It is a considerable feat as Rogge had faced a tough task after the IOC had been badly tarnished in the final years of Juan Antonio Samaranch’s stewardship over the bribes for votes scandal concerning the successful Salt Lake City bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The sextet of candidates — all men and none from Africa — will take over an IOC that Rogge revealed on Sunday is in great financial health and, with over $900 million in reserve, could afford the cancelation of an Olympic Games.
The relatively peaceful and private campaign — the candidates are simply appealing to a narrow electorate of around 100 — was spectacularly livened up by a bitter personal attack by race outsider Denis Oswald on the frontrunner Thomas Bach.
Oswald, the respected long-time president of the Rowing Federation, said that he would not step down in order to help Bach, far from it.
“Certainly not in the case of Thomas Bach! I don’t believe he and I share the same values!” he told Swiss radio.
“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 fobbed the remarks off saying he hadn’t heard them and he was just focused on talking to his colleagues.
Monday’s fare for the assembled IOC members was far lower key than the two previous frenetic days of elections for the host city for 2020 — won by Tokyo — and a sport for the 2020 and 2024 Games which saw wrestling restored to the program after a remarkable seven-month fightback.
Monday saw a succession of reports by the heads of various commissions — the essence of the smooth running of the IOC.
Bach, who would become the first Olympic gold medallist to assume the role having won the team foil fencing title in 1976, produced the most interesting news when he said disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong had yet to return his bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics despite being asked to nine months ago.
Bach, a 59-year-old German lawyer, has made the IOC and its future his life.
He has done so since becoming interested in sports politics when he was irritated at the dismissive manner in which German politicians treated him in his role as the West German athletes’ spokesman in the debate over the boycott of the 1980 Olympics.
“In 1980 I was the spokesman for all the West German athletes and fought really hard for us to be able to compete in Moscow,” he told AFP in August.
“This for me was the turning point from being an athlete to entering sports politics.
“I accepted to become a member of the German NOC because I wanted to avoid the situation where a future generation of athletes would suffer in the same way — every athlete’s ambition is to compete in an Olympics and for some 1980 was their only chance.
“We were more or less dismissed by them and it was the same with regard to politics and society in general. I had discussions about the boycott with the then chancellor (Helmut Schmidt) and president (Karl Carstens) and I always had the feeling they had no interest in sport.”