Change needed to secure Games' relevance - IOC's Bach

MONACO (Reuters) - A planned overhaul of the Olympic Games is crucial to ensure the world’s biggest multi-sports event’s relevance and continued growth in a rapidly changing world, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Sunday.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach gestures during a news conference as part of the IOC Executive Board meeting in Monaco December 6, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

A day before the IOC session votes on the biggest changes for the Olympics in decades, Bach urged members to approve the 40 recommendations dubbed ‘Agenda 2020’, a project he initiated immediately after taking over in Sept. 2013.

“In our world -- changing faster than ever -- the success of yesterday means nothing for today,” Bach said at the opening of the IOC session in Monaco.

“The success of today gives you only the opportunity to drive the change for tomorrow. If we do not address these challenges here and now we will be hit by them very soon.”

The overhaul, to be voted on Monday and Tuesday, includes changes to the bidding process, making it easier, cheaper and more efficient for cities to launch a bid for the Olympics.

Apart from the IOC shouldering part of the multi-million dollar cost of an Olympic bid, it also foresees a consultation period with potential candidates before their official submission of a bid to ensure no city drops out after bidding.

The 2022 winter Olympics campaign was hit by four departures during the biding process, leaving Beijing and Kazakhstan’s Almaty -- neither a global winter sports powerhouse -- as the only choices and denting the reputation of the Games as a lucrative prospect.

The IOC is also planning to bring in more sports, increasing their number past the current 28, to tap into new markets, bigger audiences and as a result higher revenues.

“The Olympic Agenda 2020 is like a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece, every recommendation, has the same importance,” said Bach. “Only when you put all these 40 pieces together you see the whole picture.”

Among the first to benefit from a change in the sports programme will be the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, eager to introduce baseball and softball, both hugely popular in the Asian nation.

Karate is also an option being considered by the Japanese organisers.

“If we do not drive these changes ourselves others will drive us to them,” Bach, a lawyer by profession, said. “We want to be the leaders of change in sport not the object.”

The IOC is also planning to set up a digital Olympic channel to keep the Games relevant in non-Olympic years.

“If I would deliver this speech in a theatre I would say with an ironic smile: To change or to be changed, that is the question,” said the German.

editing by Justin Palmer