BERLIN (Reuters) - German Thomas Bach became the first official candidate to be the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new president on Thursday, saying his long experience in the world of sport was his strong asset.
The 1976 Olympic fencing champion, who is an IOC vice president and has been a member of the body since 1991, has long been considered a front-runner in the race even before confirming his plans for a tilt at one of the biggest jobs in sports administration.
The IOC will elect a new president at its session in Buenos Aires on September 10 to replace Jacques Rogge whose two-term rule since 2001 comes to a mandatory end.
“Yesterday I first informed IOC President Jacques Rogge, then the IOC members about my intention to submit my candidature for IOC presidency in June,” Bach told reporters in Frankfurt on Thursday.
”From my first training sessions as a young boy through to becoming Olympic champion in Montreal to my current tasks as DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation) president, I have dedicated a large part of my life to Olympic sports.
“Thanks to the wide-ranging assignments I was privileged to have in the Olympic movement, I am humbly aware of the magnitude of the task of an IOC President,” said the affable Bach who is fluent in several languages.
The German, who heads his country’s Olympic Committee, said he would inform his fellow IOC members of his specific plans for the presidency after June 10, the deadline for presidential candidature submissions.
He said the reason behind his announcement on Thursday was not to see IOC members at upcoming meetings without them knowing of his intentions to run.
The powerful Bach, a lawyer by profession and chair of the Ghorfa Arab-German chamber of Commerce and Industry, could come up against other senior IOC members with possible bids from fellow vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore and Puerto Rican Richard Carrion, head of the IOC’s Finance Commission.
C.K. Wu of Taiwan and Swiss sports administrators Denis Oswald and Rene Fasel are also seen as potential candidates along with former pole vault champion Sergei Bubka of Ukraine.
“I was just informed by Thomas and I congratulate him on his candidacy. I have served the International Olympic Committee (IOC) alongside Thomas for a long time, and I respect him and enjoy working with him,” said potential rival Ng Ser Miang in a statement.
“The IOC has a lot of talented members, several of whom might also be interested in the IOC presidency. I have in fact been encouraged to run by many of my IOC colleagues and I will be making a decision soon.”
The 59-year-old Bach was also sports manufacturer Adidas’ Director of Promotion back in the 1980s and has held various positions within the IOC over the past 22 years. He said he was convinced it would be a fair campaign, unlike the previous race in 2001 which was marred by bitter disputes among presidential candidates.
”For me this is not a race against fellow IOC members,“ Bach said. ”My idea of this campaign is to convince the IOC members to trust me and to vote in my favor and I will concentrate on this and not having arguments against anybody else.
“My arguments will be in favor of my ideas and my track record in sports and the IOC and therefore I am really looking forward to a fair competition in the next four months.”
He also said if elected he would remain an unpaid volunteer like his predecessors and said his years of involvement in sports, business and administration had steeled him for arguably the biggest job in world sport.
“This is why I feel well prepared. I am honored that over recent months many colleagues in the IOC and the German sports community have supported me in this view.”
The IOC session will also elect the host city for the 2020 Olympics with Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo in the running, and add one sport to the program for those Games.
Seven of the eight IOC presidents to date have been European.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore)
Editing by Clare Fallon and Ed Osmond