- POSTED: 10 Sep 2013 23:54
- UPDATED: 11 Sep 2013 09:41
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Thomas Bach achieved a long-held dream on Tuesday as he was elected to the most powerful position in sport, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Buenos Aires.
BUENOS AIRES: Thomas Bach achieved a long-held dream on Tuesday as he was elected to the most powerful position in sport, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Buenos Aires.
The 59-year-old German - the first Olympic gold medallist to become president - won in the second round of voting by his fellow IOC members to beat his five male rivals bidding to succeed Jacques Rogge, who stepped down after 12 years in charge.
After Taiwan’s Wu Ching-kuo was eliminated in the first round of voting - he lost to Mr Ng Ser Miang of Singapore in a vote-off after both were tied - Mr Bach won a clear majority in the second round with 49 votes, ahead of Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion (29), Mr Ng (6), Switzerland’s Denis Oswald (5) and Ukraine’s Sergey Bubka (4).
Mr Bach, gold medallist with the West German team in the team foil event in the 1976 Olympics, had been the frontrunner throughout the campaign and had for years been seen as the man most likely to replace Mr Rogge.
"I know what the enormous responsibilities are of being IOC president but I am very happy," he said after the announcement, which saw him break into a broad smile.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"You my friends and colleagues have placed in me an overwhelming sign of trust.
"I also have enormous respect for my fellow candidates and I will work with you.
"I will put into practise what my motto was during the campaign: 'unity in diversity'."
Bach said that being in Buenos Aires borught memories flooding back from when he was an athlete.
"I came here with the team a year after winning Olympic gold," he said.
"Then it was a cold winter but all I take from it is the warmth of the relations we enjoyed with our rivals even in a dramatic final where we came back from nowhere to win.
"So I take those same warm feelings from the win today."
Mr Bach, a lawyer by profession, is the ultimate insider having been a member since 1991 and has been vice-president three times while also heading up the Judicial Commission.
He has also been one of the leaders in fighting doping, calling for athletes to be suspended for four years instead of the two-year ban in place at the moment.
It had not been all plain sailing for Bach during the campaign with German media in particular posing questions about his ability to be president.
Mr Bach, who has fond memories of Buenos Aires as he and his team-mates came from 7-1 down to win the world foil title in 1975, looked to be in the eye of the storm in August.
An academic report - commissioned by him - was released alleging that, like their then East German neighbours, West Germany too had indulged in systematic doping of their athletes.
Mr Bach dismissed the claims that he should have known more about what was going on and then set up an inquiry headed by a retired judge.
He told AFP in August that even in his time as an athlete he had never witnessed doping firsthand.
"You heard things and read some stories in the newspapers, that something was going on in different sports," he said.
An unflattering documentary on German television failed to turn up anything that could seriously damage him, while his relations with increasingly influential Kuwaiti IOC member Sheikh Ahmed al-Sabah also seemed to leave him unharmed.
The front page of one Argentinian newspaper last week had a cartoon of Mr Sheikh Ahmed, wearing a t-shirt with Mr Bach's face on it, grinning and with his thumb raised, while rival Denis Oswald went public and slammed him for his business links with Kuwait.
However, it made little impact and Mr Oswald, like his fellow candidates, were no match for the machine behind Mr Bach.
In his congratulatory message, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said Mr Bach is taking over the IOC at the critical juncture with many challenges and opportunities facing the Olympic Movement.
Mr Teo, who is also President of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), said he believes that Mr Bach will be able to bring the Movement to greater heights.
He said the SNOC looks forward to working closely with President Bach to promote the Movement and build a strong international community through sport.
Mr Teo also congratulated Mr Ng Ser Miang on a well-conducted campaign.
He said: "Ser Miang strongly believes in the Olympic Movement and has a deep passion for Olympism. This is what motivated him to take up the challenge, to run for the IOC Presidency.
"I am confident that Ser Miang will continue to contribute to the growth of sport in Singapore and sport development internationally."
Mr Ng, 64, said he ran for the presidency as he was concerned by the challenges facing world sport.
"President Bach shares my concerns, and I know the Olympic Movement is in good shape with him at the helm. I am a big believer in the Olympic Movement... and I will continue to serve all to the best of my abilities," he added.