An Olympic gold medalist has been elected president of the International Olympic Committee for the first time in its 119-year history.
Thomas Bach, a 59-year-old vice president of the IOC, has ascended to the top post of Olympic leadership.
He was elected the ninth president of the IOC in its 125th session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday.
He will serve a four-year term and will be eligible to run for two more terms. He succeeds Jacques Rogge, a 71-year-old Belgian, who stepped down after leading the IOC for 12 years since 2001, following Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Bach is the eighth European to hold the presidency. Of the IOC leaders, all have come from Europe except for Avery Brundage, the American who ran the committee from 1952-1972 as the fifth president.
He is the first gold medalist to head the IOC. He won gold in team foil fencing for West Germany in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A year later, he was crowned world champion in Buenos Aires.
He is also the first German to take the IOC presidency and the second German to run for the job after Willi Daume lost the vote in 1980.
Born in Wurzburg in 1953, the former Olympic fencer is a lawyer by profession. He majored in law and politics and earned a doctoral degree from the University of Wurzburg.
He was elected the founding president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation in 2006 and recently headed Munich’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which was awarded to PyeongChang, Korea.
Bach is an insider, having been an IOC member since 1991 and vice president three times while heading the judicial commission. Other key posts on his resume include a long stint on the policymaking IOC executive board, head of anti-doping investigations and negotiator for European TV rights.
He led reforms together with Rogge, Dick Pound of Canada and Pal Schumidt of Hungary after a bribery scandal broke out in 1998 involving bids for the 2002 Winter Games. The era of Samaranch waned with the reforms, and the door was opened for Rogge.
Bach was regarded as Rogge’s right-hand man in the IOC’s fights against corruption, doping, illegal betting and match fixing. As expected, the mantle of the IOC presidency was transferred from Rogge to Bach, and the new leader will continue Rogge’s reform drive as all candidates pledged.
“The world is changing. This is not about standing still; this is about not falling behind. Then we lose our relevance,” Bach said during his campaign, noting the importance of change in the IOC. “This not a real revolution but adapting to the times.”
By Chun Sung-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org