The Olympic Games are not about making money, but about a larger mission – which is to unite the world through sport, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said.
Bach was speaking in Doha where delegates of about 200 National Olympic Committees are gathered for the ANOC General Assembly following the successful completion of the ANOC World Beach Games.
He also criticised those who want to see the Olympic Games as a business model, which would only be about “maximising profits” at the Olympic Games.
“To be extremely clear, the Olympic Games are not about making money. The Olympic Games are not about maximising revenues,” he said. “The Olympic Games are there to accomplish our mission to unite the world through sport, to promote and defend our values. Money for us is just a means to achieve our mission,” he added.
President Bach also gave a warning that if the Games became a business model for maximising profits, “we would not have 206 NOCs, we would not have the Refugee Olympic Team, we would not have athletes from 33 sports in the Olympic Games.
“It would only be a very select group of athletes in a select group of a few of the Olympic sports. And the Olympic Games as we want them, and the Olympic Games as they have been conceived, would cease to exist. We would just have another entertainment product.”
He also called on the audience to “respect political neutrality in everything you do.”
“It’s not up to sport to take political sides. Our mission is to unite the entire world in peaceful competition. To achieve this, we must keep solidarity, political neutrality, respect and unity in everything we do and everything we say. To achieve this we must keep solidarity.”
Bach opened his keynote address by reminding the delegates that the IOC is celebrating 125 years which coincides with ANOC’s 40th birthday.
The German 1972 Olympic fencing champion noted that there were athletes from 14 countries at the 1896 Athens Olympics and “today we are here 206 NOCs.
“The mission has not changed,” Bach noted.
He believes the mission of universality, bringing the world together through sport, can only be accomplished if everyone keeps “solidarity, unity and respect in mind.”
“Unity of diversity is essential to the success of the Olympic Movement,” Bach said.
“Unity created by the Olympic Charter leads and can lead us to universality and to accomplish our mission.
“This unity means that we respect, and not only respect, but embrace diversity.”
Stressing political neutrality, Bach repeated “it takes two to tangle” referring to NOCs and their respective governments and political leaders.
“We have to be politically neutral, in everything we do and everything that we say.
“We see a growing tendency to politicise sport and to use sport for political means.
“Visas, flags, anthems, problems – many of them we could solve, but not all of them.
“It takes us to apply political neutrality and it takes the government to respect this political neutrality.
“This world is run by politics and not by us, so we need to earn this respect, we need to convince leaders to respect neutrality.”
Bach noted the opportunity that he recently had to convey this message of political neutrality to the world’s leaders and their governments at the G20 Summit in Osaka and UN General Assembly. He said the IOC’s message was well received. He talked about the goals of diversity and solidarity during his address to the Panam Sports General Assembly in Lima in July.
The IOC president emphasised that the Olympic Games are the “only ones that still manage to keep the world somewhat together and spread this symbol of unity”.
He referred to the invaluable words written outside his office at the new Olympic House in Lausanne: “change or be changed”.
Bach said that the IOC is committed to working with all 206 NOCs to accomplish its collaborative mission, adding that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could act as a conduit for reaching the goal.
“Let’s make Tokyo 2020 not only the greatest sports event in the world. Let us work together to make Tokyo a festival of unity of humanity in all our diversity.
“Together united in solidarity, we can make it, we will make it and we can be proud of it.”
Bach praised the tremendous work already accomplished by the Tokyo 2020 organisers while commending their ability to be flexible.
“I have never seen an Olympic city so well prepared one year before the Games as Tokyo already is,” the IOC leader said.
“We can really look forward to being received in Japan with open arms and the Japanese public welcoming all the athletes from all the world.”
Bach admitted that there have been some issues with test events which are being addressed to put the athletes first, notably challenges with Tokyo’s summer heat.
“We demonstrated this yesterday where the IOC Executive Board and the organising committee committed to move the Olympic marathon and race walking to Sapporo, 800 kilometres to the north and five-six degrees cooler in order to protect the health and well-being of the athletes,” Bach said.
(Article courtesy International Olympics Committee and Around the Rings)
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