IOC President Thomas Bach pleads for support for reforms: 'Time for change is now'

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MONACO — IOC President Thomas Bach issued a final plea Sunday for members to support his wide-ranging reforms, warning that "we are not living on an island" and the Olympic movement must act now to remain relevant or risk being forced to change by others.

Speaking on the eve of a two-day meeting of the IOC general assembly, Bach laid out his 40-point "Olympic Agenda 2020" reform package that includes a revised bidding process, a more flexible sports program and creation of an Olympic television channel.

"If we do not address these challenges here and now we will be hit by them very soon," Bach said in a speech to the 100-plus IOC members in Monaco. "If we do not drive these changes ourselves, others will drive us to them. We want to be the leaders of change in sport, not the object."

"The time for change is now," he said.

Bach has moved swiftly since his election in September 2013 to put his stamp on the presidency and rally support for the most sweeping changes since the IOC enacted a series of reforms in 1999 after the Salt Lake City bid scandal.

His plans, which will go to a vote of the full IOC on Monday and Tuesday, come at a time when countries have been scared off by the costs of hosting the games. Several cities withdrew from the bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the running.

The IOC will debate and vote one by one on each recommendation. Bach has invited feedback from across the OIympic world over the past year, laying the groundwork for what should be approval on all the proposals.

"You can inspire others to change, only if you are ready to change yourself," Bach said in his speech.

He said the IOC was in a strong financial position and the Olympics continue to attract big viewing figures around the world, but the organization cannot be complacent.

"We need to change because sport today is too important in society to ignore the rest of society," Bach said. "We are not living on an island. We are living in the middle of a modern, diverse, digital society."

Bach cited the proposed changes to the bidding process, making it more of an "invitation" that would allow prospective candidates to discuss their plans in advance with the IOC to tailor games to their own needs — and keep them affordable.

He spoke of the need to revamp the sports program by scrapping the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games to allow new events to come in — a process that could clear the way for baseball and softball to be added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Bach called for bolstered efforts to fight doping, an issue which came to the fore again last week with a German TV documentary alleging systematic doping and corruption in Russia.

"We have to protect (clean athletes) from doping, match-fixing, manipulation and corruption," he said. "We have to change our way of thinking. We have to consider every single cent in the fight against these evils not as an expense but as an investment in the future of Olympic sport."

The reforms also include a rewording of Principle 6 on non-discrimination to include sexual orientation — a move that followed the controversy over Russia's law against gay "propaganda" ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"This strengthened wording will help us to ensure the respect for all these rights for all participants during the Olympic Games," Bach said.

The proposed digital Olympic channel, he said, would give athletes and sports the "world-wide media exposure they deserve" in the period between the games and offer young people better access to Olympic history and values.

On Saturday, Bach said he was approaching the votes with nervous excitement.

"I feel like an athlete before the start of a final," the former Olympic fencer said. "You have been training and preparing for more than a year, and now the real thing is here."


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