LONDON — Thomas Bach is counting on his track record and long experience in the Olympic world to carry him to the top job in the IOC.
The 59-year-old German lawyer on Thursday became the first declared candidate in the race for president of the IOC, heralding the start of a four-month campaign to succeed Jacques Rogge at the helm of the multi-billion-dollar Olympic movement.
Bach, an IOC vice president, has been considered the front-runner among a possible field of a half dozen candidates. A former Olympic gold medalist in fencing, he has held several influential positions in the IOC since joining in 1991.
“With my management and leadership experience on the national and international level of sport, but also in business and politics and society, I am well trained for this great task,” Bach said in a conference call after his announcement in Frankfurt.
Rogge, who succeeded Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001, is set to step down in September after 12 years as leader of the International Olympic Committee.
Bach, winner of a team foil gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, said he notified Rogge and fellow IOC members of his intention to run on Wednesday. He said he will formally submit his candidacy to members in June under the motto “Unity in Diversity.”
“I didn’t want to keep other members in the dark any longer,” Bach said at a news conference. “I think it is the right time.”
The German has served on the policy-making IOC executive board as a regular member or vice president since 1996. As chairman of the IOC judicial commission, Bach leads most of the investigations into doping cases.
Bach has also chaired evaluation commissions for cities bidding for Summer and Winter Games and led European television rights negotiations. He heads the German Olympic Sports Confederation, DOSB.
“This is why I feel well prepared,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Bach’s decision and “wishes him success,” her office said. Bach is the second German to seek the IOC presidency, after Willi Daume ran unsuccessfully in 1980.
Bach said he will officially enter as a candidate by the June 10 deadline, exactly three months before the Sept. 10 election in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“My arguments will be in favor of my ideas and my track record in the IOC and in sports in general,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to fair competition in the next four months.”
Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang, another IOC vice president, is expected to announce his candidacy soon. So, too, is Richard Carrion, a former executive board member from Puerto Rico and another leading contender.
Ng said he congratulated Bach on his decision.
“He and I have served together at the IOC for many years. I respect him and enjoy working with him,” Ng told The Associated Press. “I will be making a decision very soon about my own candidature.”
Ng led the organizing committee for the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010. Carrion heads the IOC’s finance and audit commissions and led negotiations that secured a record $4.38 billion deal with NBC for U.S. TV rights through 2020.
Other likely contenders include Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, the former pole vault champion who still holds the world record, and C.K. Wu of Taiwan, head of the international amateur boxing federation.
Two Swiss members, Rene Fasel and Denis Oswald, have been weighing their options. Fasel is president of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Oswald is the former longtime head of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. It’s unlikely both will run.
Nawal El Moutawakel, an IOC vice president from Morocco who won a gold medal in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, has also considered a possible run.
Bach declined to speak on any specific policy issues, saying he will wait until June to submit his campaign platform to the members.
“Until then, I want to continue my dialogue with the IOC members,” he said. “I want to listen even more than I already did in the past.”
Bach said he decided to announce his decision now so he could be open in speaking to members and let them know where he stands.
“I wanted to be clear with myself, to be authentic and not to poke around the issue,” he said. “It was also for me a kind of relief to make this announcement.”
An unofficial election campaign has been going on for months, with Bach and other prospective candidates traveling the world to attend various Olympic gatherings to talk to members.
While Bach is the first to declare his candidacy, he said it was not his intention to beat his rivals to the punch.
“For me this is not a race against fellow IOC members,” he said. “My idea of this campaign is to convince the IOC members to trust me and to vote in my favor. I will concentrate on this and not having arguments against anybody else.”
The election will be held by secret ballot among the 100-plus IOC members. Personal relationships will play a large part.
“The campaign for IOC president is not like a political campaign because the IOC members know all the candidates very well,” Bach said. “On the other hand, the candidates know the members. It is very much about convincing the individual members rather than the worldwide public at large.”
Bach said, if elected, he would choose not to receive a salary. Rogge suggested recently that his successor should be paid, a break from IOC tradition where the presidency is a volunteer position. Presidents do receive living and other expenses.
“If I would be elected IOC president, I would be a volunteer like the IOC presidents up until now,” Bach said.
The German was non-committal on a proposal for the candidates to present their manifestos at an IOC general assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July, two months before the election.
“This is not up to me to decide,” Bach said. “I will be happy to follow all the rules and guidelines being established in whatever way.”
AP Sports Writer Nesha Starcevic in Frankfurt contributed to this report.
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