Buenos Aires: German Thomas Bach was elected president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday, succeeding Belgium’s Jacques Rogge and maintaining a European stranglehold on the most powerful job in world sport.
The 59-year-old Bach, who is also the first Olympic champion (fencing) to head the IOC, is the ninth president only in the body’s 119-year history.
All but one of its leaders have been Europeans, with Avery Brundage of the US the only outsider to break the monopoly, heading the IOC from 1952-1972.
“I want to be president of all of you,” the German beamed as his fellow IOC members applauded the decision before hugging and kissing their colleague.
“There are really high emotions right now,” Bach said. “To feel this great support from all the IOC members is overwhelming. I cannot describe it,” said Bach, who had been in tears moments earlier, hugging his wife and close associates.
Asked what his first task was, he replied: “The first challenge will be to celebrate. We have the challenge of organising the Sochi Winter Games. We have to prepare well and I am sure they will be great Games.”
The first German to run a major international sports body, Bach will have to go straight to work with the Sochi Olympics, starting in February, under scrutiny over a controversial Russian anti-gay propaganda law.
In addition, the 2016 summer Games in Rio de Janeiro are plagued by delays. Bach, a firm favourite in a choice of six candidates, secured victory in the second round of voting, polling 49 of the available 93 votes and beating Puerto Rican Richard Carrion into second place on 29 votes.
“I thought I had a realistic chance so I went for it,” said Carrion. “Unfortunately there is no silver medal in this competition, now I will have to go on a diet after all those lunches.”
Bach, long the front-runner for the top job, ticked all the boxes. An Olympic fencing champion at the 1976 Montreal Games, the multi-lingual and affable German was the founding president of his country’s Olympic Sports Confederation with some 28 million members.