Power play: Thomas Bach’s Iron Grip on the Olympic Games

The enormity of the influence of the IOC and the unique authority of its president are fairly recent phenomena. Other presidents ran the organization as they pleased, as many claim today, but none pulled the strings of an institution as gigantic as the contemporary version and none operated in a space as complicated as the sporting landscape. modern.

Until the late 1990s, the IOC largely retained a secondary role in the running of the Olympics, stepping down after selecting a host city to let local organizing committees run the Games. This attitude changed after the 1996 Atlanta Games, which came close to disaster – with transportation issues, technical issues, and security breaches – that the IOC determined it needed an approach. more practical to avoid new disorders.

In response, the IOC staff at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, has grown from a few dozen in the 1980s to around 100 in the 90s to around 600 today. This growth, in turn, diminished the role of IOC members, a group of 102 sports officials from around the world who once handled many of the specialized tasks now undertaken by seasoned professionals in Lausanne.

The most crippling recent blow to the power of the membership came when Bach took away his biggest responsibility: to vote on host cities. The process had traditionally been rich in bribes and corruption. More recently, although the IOC has struggled to attract viable candidates due to concerns about soaring costs.

Bach tackled these problems by simply changing the rules. In 2017, it bluntly changed the old bidding process, awarding hosting rights for two games at a time. The 2024 Games were given in Paris, while Los Angeles, also contested for these Games, was persuaded to sign for 2028. Two years later, Bach completely abandoned the old tender protocol, moving the process largely behind closed doors, where the uncontroversial host cities (Brisbane, Australia, was recently revealed as the top contender for the 2032 Summer Games) could be chosen despite issues of transparency and conflicting potential interests.

“Sometimes you just have to make decisions, and sometimes it can sound autocratic, and sometimes it can seem like you’re doing it a little bit quickly, and the reality is actually that both are probably true and sometimes both are true. necessary, ”said Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, the international governing body for athletics, and IOC member.

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