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IOC President makes emotional return to Montreal - where he won his gold medal in 1976

10 Jul 2015
Olympic News

President Bach is made citizen of honour of the city and given an honorary doctorate by the University of Montreal

Making his first visit to Montreal since winning a fencing gold medal in 1976, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach was handed the key to the city and made an honorary citizen by Mayor Denis Coderre. 

At a lunch attended by more than 2,000 people, including over 100 Olympians, President Bach spoke about the reforms the IOC has undertaken with Olympic Agenda 2020 and spoke of giving parents and athletes confidence in the credibility of sport.  He also praised the great contribution Canada has made to the Olympic Movement.

But the most poignant moments of the day came when President Bach visited the venue on the University of Montreal campus where he competed in fencing as a 22-year-old for what was then West Germany.

Inside the sports hall, photographs of President Bach in competition were placed on easels in the lobby. In the hall itself a fencing piste was placed where the President and his teammates had competed for gold.

With the podium and flags in place, and a young woman dressed in the awards ceremony costume from those Games, the President said the visit, the first since his win, brought the memories flooding back.

“I could show you the changing rooms where we left for the final full of tension. I could show you where we sat in the final between matches,” he said.

Later the President was awarded an honorary degree, and he was able to recount some of his memories.

“In this hall, I remembered my team and my best friend,” said the President, recalling one of his teammates from 1976 who died in 2008 from brain cancer.

“This is the Olympic life. But it is also life. It is a symbol of what life can mean to all of us and it shows that in sport, in Olympic sport in particular, victory isn’t everything. It is a moment of joy. But no victory makes anybody superior to anybody else,” the President said.

“On the other hand, defeat is not the end of everything,” he added.

In the evening the people of Montreal turned out to celebrate the placing of the Olympic rings on the new headquarters of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). The COC is the first Olympic Committee to take advantage of new proposals from Olympic Agenda 2020 which allow for the famous rings to be displayed more widely.

As many as 100,000 “Montrealers” filled six blocks for the ceremony, which marked the end of Canadian Olympic Excellence Day. Demonstrations of Olympic sports such as fencing, volleyball and gymnastics filled the main streets around the new COC headquarters.

President Bach joined COC President Marcel Aubut, who had accompanied him throughout the day, to cut the ribbon for the new COC headquarters with the help of Québec politicians. Also at the celebration were dozens of Olympians including: Nadia Comaneci, Katarina Witt, Bart Conner, Johann Olav Koss, Mark Tewksbury, Steve Podborski and Greg Louganis. At the end of the ceremony, President Bach and President Aubut together unveiled the Olympic rings at the top of the city centre building.

Launching the Rings, President Bach addressed the crowd in French: “La jeunesse: notre espoir vers un avenir meilleur pour notre monde avec et par le sport. Les athlètes: l’inspiration pour le monde en vivant les valeurs olympiques d’amitié d’excellence et de respect. Les anneaux Olympique : le symbole de l’unité de l'humanité s’illuminera à jamais dans le firmament de Montréal, ville olympique. (Youth: our hope for a better future for our world with and through sport. Athletes: the inspiration for the world by living the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. The Olympic rings: the symbol of the unity of mankind that will illuminate forever in the firmament of Montreal, an Olympic city.) ” 

The next day the President was joined by Nadia Comaneci for a tour of the Olympic Village and the Stadium.

The President remembered sharing a room with 12 other athletes during the Games.

But his strongest memory of the Village was of the African athletes who were sent home because of a boycott. “I still remember their sad faces very clearly. It demonstrated yet again why we should resist political interference with sport and the Olympic Games.” 

Later, the President and Nadia Comaneci visited the Olympic Stadium. The two Olympians even crossed swords as the President gave fencing lessons to Nadia Comaneci.

Afterwards Nadia said, “maybe we should try the trampoline next”.

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