Sport is an an­chor of sta­bil­ity in a frag­ile world

Its unique power to unite all of hu­man­ity is one of the most im­por­tant things the Olympic Games can give us dur­ing these trou­bled times

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY THOMAS BACH *

As Olympic Year 2016 came to a close, we see that sport is one of the few things with the power to unite all peo­ple in an in­creas­ingly frag­ile world. Sport is an an­chor of sta­bil­ity for so many peo­ple, re­gard­less of back­ground, na­tion­al­ity or be­lief. For me, this is the un­der­ly­ing rea­son that ex­plains the suc­cess of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Like no other event in 2016, it brought the en­tire in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to­gether in cel­e­bra­tion, with ath­letes from all 206 Na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tees as well as the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. It was a rare mo­ment of unity and sol­i­dar­ity for all hu­mankind.

We saw new records, great emo­tions, fair play and sports­man­ship. The par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Refugee Olympic Team sent a strong sig­nal of hope to the mil­lions of refugees in the world. The world’s best ath­letes set a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple that it is pos­si­ble to en­gage in peace­ful com­pe­ti­tion. For all these rea­sons, the Rio 2016 Olympics will be re­mem­bered as the marvelous Games in the Marvelous City.

This unique power of sport to unite all of hu­man­ity is one of the most im­por­tant things the Olympic Games can give us in our trou­bled times. In a world where mis­trust and un­cer­tainty are on the rise, sport is a source of joy and in­spi­ra­tion for so many peo­ple, giv­ing us hope that our shared hu­man­ity is stronger than the forces that want to di­vide us.

Half the world’s pop­u­la­tion tuned into Games coverage, making Rio 2016 the most-con­sumed Olympics in his­tory, when one takes into ac­count broad­cast and so­cial me­dia. The ex­plo­sion of so­cial me­dia plat­forms in re­cent years meant that more peo­ple than ever fol­lowed these Olympic Games via so­cial me­dia, with 7.2 bil­lion views of of­fi­cial video con­tent. An in­ter­na­tional sur­vey has found that these Olympics are strongly as­so­ci­ated with pos­i­tive at­tributes such as ex­cel­lence, friend­ship and re­spect, among many oth­ers.

With this global vis­i­bil­ity comes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the world of sport. Be­cause of the uni­fy­ing power of sport, there are high hopes and even higher ex­pecta- tions for sports or­ga­ni­za­tions from the gen­eral pub­lic – and rightly so. The role of sport in so­ci­ety is more rel­e­vant to­day than ever be­fore. Con­se­quently, sports or­ga­ni­za­tions ev­ery­where need to jus­tify the trust that peo­ple have placed in sport.

Out­side of Rio 2016, we saw the grow­ing rel­e­vance of sport in so­ci­ety in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ar­eas dur­ing this land­mark Olympic year. It be­gan with the very suc­cess­ful Lille­ham­mer 2016 Win­ter Youth Olympic Games, where the spirit and en­ergy of the next gen­er­a­tion of young ath­letes set the tone for the rest of the year.

There was unan­i­mous sup­port for the Refugee Olympic Team from the United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly and many heads of state and gov­ern­ment. In a fur­ther ex­pres­sion of the close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the IOC and the UN, a res­o­lu­tion with con­sen­sus from all the mem­ber­states reaf­firmed the UN’s recog­ni­tion of the IOC’s au­ton­omy and the role of sport as an im­por­tant en­abler of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The first global con­fer­ence on faith and sport held at the Vatican at the ini­tia­tive of Pope Fran­cis brought to­gether the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral and the IOC with faith lead­ers to dis­cuss the pro­mo­tion of com­mon val­ues.

The launch of the Olympic Chan­nel gave the sports move­ment a dig­i­tal plat­form to spread our mes­sages and val­ues to young peo­ple ev­ery­where. Making the magic of the Olympic Games avail­able 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, we al­ready have more than 382 mil­lion video views of Olympic Chan­nel con­tent across all of its so­cial me­dia pages.

So as 2016 came to an end, we have many rea­sons to cel­e­brate a suc­cess­ful Olympiad. At the same time, there are no rea­sons to be com­pla­cent.

In sport, the suc­cess of to­day means noth­ing for to­mor­row. As an ath­lete, I learned that your per­for­mance is ul­ti­mately judged by how you rise to the oc­ca­sion. The suc­cess of to­day only gives you the strength to ad­dress the chal­lenges of to­mor­row.

This is the same ap­proach that the Olympic Move­ment will take to tackle the chal­lenges that lie ahead this year. There are many chal­lenges on our agenda, so we can­not af­ford to stand still. We need to rise to the oc­ca­sion in the new year.

The most im­me­di­ate chal­lenge is the shock­ing find­ings of the re­cent McLaren re­port on dop­ing and ma­nip­u­la­tion in Rus­sia that have caused dam­age to the cred­i­bil­ity and in­tegrity of sport. Two IOC com­mis­sions have been set up to co­ordi- nate our re­sponse. They will re­spect the due process and give all sides a fair chance to be heard. Fol­low­ing this, the IOC will take all ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures and sanc­tions.

We will con­tinue and ex­tend the work of Pro­fes­sor Richard McLaren. Since his man­date did not in­clude a full re­anal­y­sis of all sam­ples, we will re-ex­am­ine all 254 urine sam­ples col­lected from Rus­sian ath­letes at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Win­ter Games. We will do the same with all the Rus­sian ath­letes’ sam­ples from the Lon­don 2012 Olympic Games. It is only fair for the cred­i­bil­ity of the Olympics and for peace of mind of the ath­letes that we take these ex­tra mea­sures.

The lat­est de­vel­op­ments un­der­score the ur­gent need for a strength­ened, cen­tral­ized anti-dop­ing sys­tem un­der the lead­er­ship of the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) that is in­de­pen­dent of sports or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ments alike. This is why the IOC will con­tinue to call for a more ef­fi­cient, more trans­par­ent and more ro­bust anti-dop­ing sys­tem, as unan­i­mously sup­ported by all stake­hold­ers at the most re­cent Olympic Sum­mit.

An­other pri­or­ity on our agenda is the prepa­ra­tion for the Pyeong Chang 2018 Olympic Win­ter Games – the first of three con­sec­u­tive Olympic Games to be held in Asia. The many test events in Pyeong Chang this win­ter will be an im­por­tant mile­stone on the road to what will be ex­cep­tional Olympic Win­ter Games in 2018.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of Olympic Agenda 2020 re­mains an on­go­ing pri­or­ity, with more than 90 per­cent of the ex­pected de­liv­er­ables com­pleted or on­go­ing. The IOC has al­ready im­ple­mented all good gov­er­nance mea­sures called for un­der Olympic Agenda 2020 and we ex­pect other sport or­ga­ni­za­tions to fol­low this lead.

An­other ma­jor step to­ward the re­al­iza­tion of Olympic Agenda 2020 will come in 2017 at our Olymp­ism in Ac­tion Fo­rum in Lima, Peru, where the role of sport in so­ci­ety will be ad­dressed un­der the key themes of cred­i­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and youth.

Even though Tokyo was se­lected as Host City for the 2020 Olympic Games be­fore the adop­tion of Olympic Agenda 2020, it is one of the first or­ga­niz­ers to ben­e­fit from the new fo­cus on flex­i­bil­ity, fea­si­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity. Fol­low­ing these prin­ci­ples has al­ready helped Tokyo 2020 to re­al­ize sig­nif­i­cant over­all sav­ings, which we will con­tinue to pur­sue with the lo­cal part­ners. In fact, the bud­get of the Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee is pri­vately funded, which means zero cost to the pub­lic purse.

With the ex­cel­lent can­di­da­tures of Los An­ge­les, Bu­dapest and Paris, we can al­ready say with con­fi­dence that the world can look for­ward to an out­stand­ing 2024 Olympic Games, which­ever city is cho­sen as host. All three cities submitted projects fully in line with Olympic Agenda 2020 of how the Olympic Games can best fit into the long-term vi­sion for the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of their cities. It is also clear that with­out the new flex­i­bil­ity un­der Olympic Agenda 2020, there would be no Can­di­dates Cities at all for the 2024 Olympic Games.

With a longer-term per­spec­tive, we need to rec­og­nize that the cur­rent can­di­da­ture process pro­duces too many losers. There­fore, we need to study ways to re­form the can­di­da­ture process be­yond 2024, to en­sure the best host city is se­lected for the Olympic Games while min­i­miz­ing the losers.

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful launch of the Olympic Chan­nel, our fo­cus must now be on grow­ing the au­di­ence and our reach. In 2017, ef­forts will con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing lo­cal­ized ver­sions of the Olympic Chan­nel, of­fer­ing re­gion- and lan­guage-spe­cific con­tent on lin­ear and dig­i­tal plat­forms. A sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in this process has just re­cently been an­nounced with the new lin­ear Olympic Chan­nel in the US, set to launch dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2017.

The suc­cess of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has shown us what is pos­si­ble when the world comes to­gether in peace and sol­i­dar­ity as it did at the Olympic Games. So it is with this firmly in mind that we look to­ward 2017 with a re­newed sense of pur­pose. Wish­ing ev­ery­one a very happy and pros­per­ous New Year. * Thomas Bach is the pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee.

IOC chief Thomas Bach points to a new bid­ding sys­tem in the long term to min­i­mize losers among Olympic host can­di­dates.

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