Moscow Games boycott ignited Thomas Bach's IOC fuse

Moscow Games boycott ignited Thomas Bach's IOC fuse

BUENOS AIRES, Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires - Had the West not boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Thomas Bach would be enjoying the fruits of a successful law practice in Germany.

Instead, on Tuesday he was elected as International Olympic Committee (IOC) president -- the most powerful political position in sport and the sporting equivalent of being head of the United Nations.

The 59-year-old -- a gold medallist in the 1976 Olympics in the team foil fencing competition -- has a hard act to to follow in succeeding Jacques Rogge after his 12 years at the helm.

Bach's desire to become involved in sports politics, he told AFP in August, was provoked by the dismissive way politicians at the time treated the athletes' concerns over the boycott brought about because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Bach -- the first Olympic gold medallist to become IOC president -- was along with his team-mates attempting to qualify for the Games and defend the Olympic title while the debate raged on over whether to join the boycott or not.

"In 1980 I was the spokesman for all the West German athletes and fought really hard for us to be able to compete in Moscow," he said.

"However, because of huge government pressure the National Olympic Committee (NOC) gave in and boycotted the Games.

"This for me was the turning point from being an athlete to entering sports politics. I accepted to become a member of the German NOC because I wanted to avoid the situation where a future generation of athletes would suffer in the same way -- every athlete's ambition is to compete in an Olympics and for some 1980 was their only chance.

"It was very obvious at the time that the athletes had no influence over the NOC.

"We were more or less dismissed by them and it was the same with regard to politics and society in general. I had discussions about the boycott with the then-chancellor (Helmut Schmidt) and president (Karl Carstens) and I always had the feeling they had no interest in sport."

Since then Bach has made his priorities the fight against doping -- he argued for a lifelong ban back in 1981 -- and taking care of the athletes and their concerns.

But his cleancut image has taken a hit of late with questions raised about his relationship with the Gulf States namely Kuwait amid accusations he has used his position and his friendship with Sheikh Ahmad al-Sabah to advance his commerical interests.

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