Olympics

IOC leader Thomas Bach speaks out on many issues

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said the organization is still reviewing multiple proposals concerning the possibility of extreme heat during the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Speaking during the IOC Executive Board Meeting on Saturday in Tokyo, Bach said in addition to concerns already raised about the marathon and race walk, there are also proposals about altering the start times of the BMX and rugby competitions.

The IOC president said the international federations of those sports will review their options and have discussions with the athletes’ commissions before making a decision and ultimately a recommendation to the IOC’s executive board.

Bach said the principle question is when any decisions or recommendations would be made.

“We don’t know whether there will be another heatwave in 2020,” Bach said. “There may be one, there may not be one. They will then have to evaluate what is better and for which reasons to take the decision months before the Olympic Games or even a year before the Olympic Games. Or whether to wait until there is a reliable forecast for this period of time.”

Bach also announced the formation of an IOC Advisory Committee on Human Rights. The body will consist of six to nine members with expertise in both human rights and sports. It will be chaired by Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Bach expects the body to advise the IOC on issues of human rights. Pressed on the scope of the committee’s work, Bach indicated the IOC will focus on issues in its purview.

“It’s about our sphere of work and our sphere of responsibility,” he said. “This is with regard to the Olympic Games. The IOC has neither the mandate nor the authority to solve human rights problems which go beyond our mandate and which are clearly political issues and have to be addressed then by the U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner or U.N. Council for Human Rights or the other competent authorities.”

Looking ahead to the Tokyo Games, Bach reiterated his earlier stance Tokyo is the most well-prepared host city at this point that he can remember. Bach cited the engagement of the Japanese people and the number of volunteers the city has attracted.

“We see also the important factor of the success of home teams in Olympic Games,” Bach said. “If you look at the successes of the Japanese athletes in the last couple of years, and in particular this year, then you know Japan will have a very strong home team to offer in Tokyo 2020.”

It still remains to be seen if Japan will be able to flex its muscle in boxing. The sport’s fate on the program remains in limbo as the IOC investigates the governance and other issues surrounding the International Boxing Association (AIBA), amateur boxing’s world governing body.

Bach would only say the IOC would make all efforts to protect the athletes.

“We also have, for instance, received a request from the national boxing federation of Japan pleading to have an Olympic boxing tournament,” Bach said. “We are absolutely in line with this request. Yes, we want to have one, and this is why we will work hard, for the athletes. It’s always the same, we do not want athletes to suffer from misbehavior of officials or people to which they are not related.”

During his stay in Japan, Bach met Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto to speak about the city’s withdrawal from the bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, with the possibility of the city bidding for the 2030 Games being mentioned. Bach also said he plans to visit Hiroshima during the 2020 torch relay.

“Because the Olympic torch is a symbol of peace,” he said. “Hiroshima is also a symbol of peace and the people of Hiroshima have a great commitment to peace. So I think such a visit could be a symbol of these joint efforts for peace.”

Similarly, Bach says the IOC remains committed to aiding the reconciliation efforts between the two Koreas.

“We have been asked both leaders, by President Moon and by Chairman Kim Jong Un, to continue to support their peace talks through actions in sport,” Bach said. “One of them is that we keep supporting North Korean athletes. We have been asking, unfortunately unsuccessfully, the United Nations’ sanctions committee of the security council for an exemption with regard to sports equipment. We may make another effort in an appropriate time.”

He said the IOC will meet with representatives from North and South Korea, and their Olympic committees, likely in February or March, for suggestions of how to help.