Thomas Bach of Germany was elected president of the International Olympic Committee, replacing Jacques Rogge as the head of one of sport’s most powerful groups.
Bach was elected in the second round of voting after international boxing association head Ching-Kuo Wu was eliminated in the opening voting, leaving five candidates for the final ballot. Bach got 49 votes, besting the closest candidate, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, by 20.
Rogge, a 71-year-old who stabilized the IOC for 12 years as it recovered from corruption scandals, is retiring, and a record number of candidates vied to replace him at the 125th annual meeting today in Buenos Aires. The new head for the Lausanne, Switzerland-based body may influence decisions for events through 2040, according to Michael Payne, who oversaw the IOC’s marketing from 1983 to 2004.
“I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all my friends and colleagues who voted for me -- this is really an overwhelming sign of trust,” Bach said. “I will work with you in the coming years and repay your confidence. I know about the great responsibility of an IOC president.”
The potential power attracted the biggest field of candidates in the IOC’s history. Bach, a German lawyer and Olympic gold-medalist fencer, was labeled the frontrunner by some IOC members including Dick Pound of Canada.
The other candidates were Carrion, former world champion and current pole-vault record holder Sergey Bubka from Ukraine, Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang, Wu and Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer who was responsible for coordinating the 2012 London games.
Ng got six votes in the final tally, with Oswald getting five and Bubka four.
“The election of Bach gives us certainty,” British IOC vice president Craig Reedie said. “There was a majority early in the process and I think that’s good news.”
Candidates and their supporters had been working to gather votes during the meeting, which started Sept. 4.
“He ran a great campaign and is humble in triumph,” Ng said in a statement. “This is a time of great challenges for the Olympic movement, and I wish President Bach the very best of success in guiding the IOC as we move into a new and exciting era.”
Bach told reporters that although he was confident heading into today’s vote, he’d continue to push as if he was “preparing for an Olympic final.”
The German, 59, was a team fencing champion at the 1976 Games in Montreal. He has degrees in law and politics.
“Your election to this most important of sporting offices shows impressively the regard and trust you enjoy inside the Olympic family,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an open letter to Bach. “I am very glad that Germany will through you continue to be represented excellently on the international stage.”
Bach joined the IOC executive board in 1996, and four years later became a vice president, a post he still held. While South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo won the 2020 Summer Olympics during the current meeting, there has never been an IOC president from outside America or Europe.
Rogge was the eighth president of the organization, and defeated four opponents in the 2001 vote in Moscow. The Belgian served his eight-year term and then was voted in for an additional four-year extension.
The Belgian became an orthopedic surgeon after competing in the yachting competition at the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics. He joined the IOC executive board in 1998.
“The new president won’t want to be a mirror image of his predecessor,” Reedie said. “But he knows more about the organization of the IOC and the implications for the movement than any of the other candidates, in what was a strong field.”