Bach asserts growing global relevance of the Olympic Games

IOC president Thomas Bach

LAUSANNE: As the International Olympic Committee celebrated its 125th anniversary, IOC president Thomas Bach reiterated Tuesday that the vision and dreams of Pierre de Coubertin have “stood the test of time”, and that as we face an age of global crisis, “the values of the Olympic Games are as relevant now as they were then”. The revolutionary idea of uniting the world through sport put forward so many years ago has become the defining approach of the Olympic Movement today.

“Then, as now, humankind is living in an age when the world is drifting apart. Hardly a day goes by without news of rising nationalism, of mistrust and protectionism. In an age of global crises, we are seeing more isolation, more separation, more confrontation and less cooperation,” he added. “This also means, on the other hand, that the values of the Olympic Games are as relevant now as they were then.”

Olympic Games continue to unite world community
“The enduring power of the Olympic Games is their universality. The Olympic Games are the only event with the power to bring the entire world together in peaceful competition. But we can only bring the entire world together if everyone can participate. We can only achieve this mission by showing respect and solidarity for one another.”

Solidarity is at the heart of the IOC’s activities, and as part of this very important objective, 90% of the IOC’s revenue is redistributed to benefit athletes around the world. This means that $1.5 billion is invested into sport every year, and in the four years of an Olympiad, this is $5 billion going to support athletes and sports organisations around the world.

“We are working with NOCs and IFs to strengthen this solidarity model for the benefit of the athletes, because they know the best, they know better than us, how to support their  athletes in their countries and in their sports. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this.”

Bach emphasised the need for the Olympic Movement to be united and the strength of partnership. “The universality of the Olympic Games can only happen when every NOC, every sport, and every athlete shares this respect and solidarity.”

But in a world of change, he asserted the importance of adapting to the modern age. “All the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020, which you unanimously approved at the time, have one overarching goal: to strengthen and even enhance the relevance of the Olympic Games in our world today. We do so by promoting our values of peace and solidarity, which were so central to the vision of Pierre de Coubertin when he revived the Olympic Games. These values continue to be at the heart of everything we do.”

The values of Coubertin continue to define the IOC today. “The Olympic values – this is what defines us a community. When our values are under threat, we make it even clearer for what we stand: We stand for solidarity. We stand for universality. We stand for peace. We stand for dialogue. We stand for diversity. We stand for respect. We stand against any form of discrimination in the sporting world.”  

The work of the IOC is of ever-growing importance, especially as a values-based organization. President Bach called on public authorities “to take this distinction into consideration whenever they take decisions that affect sport. We are calling on them to respect our social mission, to respect our solidarity model and to recognise our invaluable contribution to society. This goes to the heart of our identity. This is who we are. We stand for values. We organise competitions for all athletes from all sports, regardless of whether these competitions are commercially successful or not. We are not cherry picking.”

As the IOC is a values-based organisation, Bach reiterated the aim of continuing to strive. “If Coubertin were with us today, I think he would be pleased to see how relevant his Olympic dream is today. But knowing of his idealism, I also know that he would also have a message for us: Keep striving. Keep changing.”

He ended his speech with a reminder for the Olympic Movement. “In this Olympic spirit, let us stay united as he said; let us stay united and with faith in ourselves, striving for even more change and excellence in the next 125 years and beyond.”

Bach will speak to the leaders of the world at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday 29 June about the importance of the Olympic Movement and the unifying power of sport in our fragile world.