Bach: We can start 2018 with confidence - but not complacency
The International Olympic Committee’s decision to suspend Russia’s national Olympic committee, while creating a path for clean individual athletes to compete in the PyeongChang winter Olympics “could draw a line under this damaging episode,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a New Year message.
Last month, the IOC ruled that selected ‘clean’ Russian athletes can compete in next month's games, but only under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’, wearing uniforms bearing this name, and competing under the Olympic flag, with the Olympic anthem to be played at any ceremony.
In the wake of a major ‘state-supported’ doping scandal in Russia, the IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, excluded Vitaly Mutko, the former Russian sports minister, now deputy prime minister, from all future Olympic Games, and suspended Alexander Zhukov, the Russian Olympic Committee president, as an IOC member.
In his New Year message, Bach said: “After 17 months of painstaking work, we can confidently say that due process was followed throughout. The decision sanctions those responsible for the past violations while creating a path forward for the future...
“It was a difficult decision but it was a necessary one to ensure the integrity of the Olympic Games. If everyone draws the right conclusions, it could serve as a catalyst for a more robust anti-doping system under the leadership of WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency].”
Meanwhile, Bach wrote that, in its second year of existence, the IOC’s Olympic Channel “will provide more live sporting events and engage the audience with new interactive programmes. In this Olympic year, the focus will also be on enhancing the broadcast of PyeongChang 2018 and providing live coverage from YOG [the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games] to bring the performances of the young athletes to every corner of the globe.
“In doing so, the Olympic Channel can build on a strong foundation of having already reached over one billion video views across all platforms so far. Creating content for a new generation of sports fans in engaging ways is another key priority as the Olympic Channel continues to attract a young audience. 82% of those engaging with Olympic Channel content on social media are below the age of 35, showing that we are moving in the right direction.”
Bach predicted that the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics “will be more youthful, more urban, and more female. It will be the first Olympic programme with complete gender equality, a 50-50 balance, with the same number of girls and boys taking part in the same number of sport events. This will be another milestone in our continued efforts under Olympic Agenda 2020 to promote gender equality.
“With an exciting new format and new sports and disciplines, the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 promise to be a festival of sport, youth and culture. The opening ceremony in the centre of this passionate sports city and the new ‘parks concept’ will bring a new dimension to the YOG, engaging the local population in many activities beyond the actual sport events themselves. In this way, the YOG will be an exciting testing ground for new ideas of engaging young people through sport.”
Bach added: “Another direct result of Olympic Agenda 2020 will be the very first ‘Olympism in Action’ Forum, taking place in Buenos Aires just ahead of the YOG. It will bring together a community of around 2,000 stakeholders from the Olympic Movement, business, politics and civil society.
"In this new format, we will discuss the most important topics on the agenda of sport and society in the modern world, covering a wide range of subjects including education and health, the future of the Olympic Games, good governance, digitalisation, e-Games/sport among others. The ‘Olympism in Action’ Forum will also benefit from the contribution of many young athletes taking part in the YOG.”
Bach’s message culminated with the claim that “the Olympic Movement continues to be an anchor of stability in our fast-changing world.
“This is why we can start this new year 2018 with confidence – but not complacency. What better time than the beginning of an Olympic year to remind ourselves that sport is always about the joy of life and confidence in the future.”