IOC President: A week to strengthen sport in society
It was another full week for International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, whose schedule included stops in five countries, meetings with world leaders, and seven days championing the importance of sport in society and its ability to spread peace.
Dignitaries met included United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French President François Hollande, President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
The packed programme started on Monday (April 13th) when the IOC President chaired the first International Forum for Sports Integrity in Lausanne. The Forum coincided with the launch of the IOC’s Integrity and Compliance Hotline, a new reporting mechanism for potential cases of competition manipulation as well as other violations of the integrity of sport. The Forum brought together representatives from world governments, the Council of Europe, the European Union, INTERPOL, Europol, United Nations agencies, sports betting operators and Olympic Movement stakeholders.
Ahead of the Forum, President Bach held a meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. The two men spoke about the close cooperation between their organisations in numerous areas related to sport in society.
Later, Swiss Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard visited the IOC President. Among other topics, they talked about relations between the IOC and the Swiss Confederation and the IOC’s 100-year celebrations in Lausanne.
The next morning (April 14th) the President welcomed members of the German Parliament and answered questions related to the Olympic Agenda 2020 and the bidding for hosting Olympic Games. Hours later he headed for New York. Upon arrival he met IOC Honorary Member Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz, with whom he discussed the development of sport in Saudi Arabia and the follow-up to the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations.
The IOC President also met IOC Member and US Olympic Committee President Lawrence Probst, together with USOC Secretary General Scott Blackmun. Their discussions focused on implementing the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations and the candidature process for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Later that same evening the President also met with representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists and discussed the relationship with this Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
In a speech at the United Nations headquarters the next day, (April 15th) the IOC President said the time has come for sport to play a greater role as a force for positive change around the world. His remarks were met with broad support from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the UN General Assembly H.E. Sam Kutesa, who also spoke at the event, called “United Action Towards Sustainable Development For All Through Sport.”
Both the IOC President and UN Secretary-General called for sport to be included the new global sustainable development agenda that is scheduled to be finalised in September.
© IOC / Ian Jones
While at the UN, President Thomas Bach was named a "HeForShe" supporter by UN Women. HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for gender equality launched by Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Hundreds of thousands of men have already voiced their support for the project.
After visiting the United Nations the President held talks with Human Rights Watch and discussed the changes in terms of transparency and credibility brought about as a result of Olympic Agenda 2020.
The next day, (16th April) back in Lausanne, President Bach returned for separate meetings with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and French President François Hollande. During his meeting with Prime Minister Orbán, President Bach discussed the positive benefits sport can have in society, in particular through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He also updated the Prime Minister about the progress being made on implementing Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. They discussed the changes to the bidding process for the Olympic Games. These include cost reductions, an emphasis on sustainability and the new Invitation Phase.
© IOC / Ian Jones
Discussions with President Hollande included a possible French Olympic bid from Paris for the Olympic Games 2024. President Bach said: “France has a lot to offer to the Olympic Movement. We also learned today that Paris 2024 will focus on the post-games legacy of the venues. This approach fits perfectly within the spirit of Olympic Agenda 2020.”
President Hollande was accompanied by Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, and Employment Minister François Rebsamen.
During the visit the President also discussed the Sustainable Development Goals and the need to include sport in the final UN declaration in September.
The French President also invited the IOC to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Paris at the end of the year. President Bach accepted the invitation.The same evening President Bach travelled to Serbia to meet with the Serbian NOC to discuss Olympic Agenda 2020, the major role of sport in society, and the recent recognition by the IOC of the Kosovo.
© IOC / Ian Jones
In the Serbian capital Belgrade, (April 17th) President Bach praised the President of the NOC of Serbia Vlade Divac for the progress made in Olympic sports. The IOC President met with representatives of the 38 National Sports Federations of Serbia. Later the President visited a school in Belgrade where hundreds of children were taking part in a programme funded by Olympic Solidarity.
From there the President travelled directly to Kosovo. The NOC was granted full IOC recognition at the 127th IOC Session in Monaco in December 2014. In Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, the IOC President held talks with President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga.
The Kosovan President said that sport could “build bridges in society” and spoke of the positive benefits of being a new member of the Olympic family. She honoured the IOC President with the Medal of Merit.
Later President Bach met Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, as well as Kosovo NOC President Besim Hasani. He told them that if they prepared their athletes well for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year they would become great role models for the whole country. The Prime Minister said: “You have opened a blocked door for us and it will bring enormous benefits to be part of the international sporting community.”
© IOC / Ian Jones
From the Prime Minister’s office the delegation of the IOC President went to meet athletes at the Kosovo Palace for Sport during their training sessions. The next day (April 18th) he joined a fun-run in the city centre that more than 700 children took part in. In the evening President Bach flew with his delegation to Sochi – welcomed by the Russian NOC President and the Russian IOC Members with whom he discussed the status of implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020 and the legacy of the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. The President described his return to Sochi as an “emotional experience” – one year after the successful Games.
The Sochi Olympic Park has hosted a number of top-level sporting events since the Games and on Sunday (April 19th) the President had the opportunity to see how the facilities in the Olympic Park are still being used. At the Fed Cup in the Adler Arena he was able to see Germany and Russia battling it out for a place in the finals. In this arena the Russian NOC and the National Tennis Federation are setting up a Tennis Academy for talented young players.
© IOC / Ian Jones
Only few meters away, at the Ice Cube, the IOC President watched the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. He was able to see for himself how athletes still enjoy competing in the fantastic venues in the Olympic Park.
The President held a number of discussions with the Russian Minister for Sport, Tourism and Youth, Vitaly Mutko about the legacy of the Sochi Games and the development of sport in Russia. He also held talks with President Putin’s key advisor, Igor Levitin.
In Sochi, the President attended a meeting of the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARIFS) where he told delegates, “you are all part of the Olympic Family”. As IOC Recognised Federations he spoke about the opportunities for collaboration with the IOC in many different areas including integrity, education, anti-doping and Olympic Channel. The President made it clear that the Olympic Channel is open for Non-Olympic Federations as a platform to showcase their sports.
The morning of April 20th started with the Opening of General Assembly of SportAccord, where the IOC President responded to the ‘Welcome Address’ of SportAccord President Marius Vizer. Following this, meetings were held with a number of IOC Members, and Presidents of International Federations.
Later that day, President Bach met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the huge legacy of the Olympic Winter Games that were held in Sochi just over a year ago.
© IOC / Ian Jones
The meeting took place in the convention center of Sochi – which was the International Broadcasting and Media Centre during the Games. The two leaders discussed the success of the Games in Sochi and on how Russia can continue to build on the legacy. Since the Games, Sochi has hosted a number of world championships and other elite events. The President told the Russian leader that he was encouraging the International Federations to continue to take advantage of the facilities and Russian know-how. “None of that would have been possible before the Games,” President Bach told President Putin.
The two also discussed the important role of sport in society. The Russian President emphasised that the Russian authorities continue to work closely with the IOC, and he praised the “excellent relations” with the IOC as “leader of the Olympic Movement.”
Following the Meetings and the Opening Show of SportAccord, the IOC President returned to Lausanne with his delegation, where he received the next morning (April 21st) the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.
The two leaders discussed sport as a means to promote education, health, development, peace and reconciliation with the Ukraine President. The meeting was also attended by Sergey Bubka, President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, and IOC Executive Board Member, and Valeriy Borzov, IOC Member in Ukraine.
©IOC / Christophe Moratal
President Poroshenko was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the First Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine.
Athletes’ welfare was at the heart of their meeting, as they spoke about an IOC initiative that has helped Ukrainian athletes in areas affected by civil strife. The IOC established an emergency fund of USD 300,000 last year to be used for the benefit of the Ukrainian athletes.
President Bach reiterated that the role of sport was to bring people together. The IOC President added that the United Nations resolution on the autonomy of sports explicitly encourages full participation at sporting events, and the conciliative nature of Olympic sport events.. He noted that boycotts are incompatible with this UN request for respect of the values of sport. The Ukrainian President said he was “against sports boycotts” and also emphasized that “Ukraine is welcoming athletes from all countries”.
The two leaders talked about the SDGs, which are being finalized by the United Nations this year, and the IOC President reiterated the need to include sport in the final declaration.
The Ukrainian President described the reform process he was implementing in Ukraine, adding that sport is playing a key role in education, health and social policy. He said it was vital to use the “values of sport in this respect”. The IOC President offered the assistance of the IOC with regards to these programmes. President Bach offered help from the IOC to aid in peace and reconciliation in the country.
President Poroshenko invited President Bach to visit Ukraine. The IOC President accepted the invitation.
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