Politics in sports


IOC boss Bach encourages China to bid for future Games

IOC boss Bach encourages China to bid for future Games
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IOC president Thomas Bach says he hopes to see China bid for future Olympic Games.

Beijing hosted the 2022 Winter Olympics and the 2008 Summer Games to global acclaim, as well as successfully staging the 2014 Youth Olympics.

Clearly impressed by those efforts, Bach is keen for China to throw its hat into the ring once again.

Speaking during a five-day visit to China, Bach said on Saturday: "Candidatures from China are always the most welcome.

But right now we have already allocated the hosts until 2032, so China still has some time to think about the next candidature, which will be 2036. But I'm really looking forward to many major international sports events taking place in China in the coming years.

This year, China will host the Chengdu Universiade and the Hangzhou Asian Games, bringing international multisport events back to the country after Beijing 2022.

A plethora of World Cup and World Championships across a variety of sports are also taking place in China throughout 2023. Bach believes this "shows the great confidence the world of international sports has in China as a host and organizer and how much we all appreciate the warm hospitality of the Chinese people".

Bach revealed that the number of National Olympic Committees or regions interested in hosting the 2036 Olympics is already in "double digits".

"There is still some time to go. We will maybe have a better feeling what the world will look like in 2036 than we do at this very moment now," he added.

Due to climate change's negative impact on winter sports, the IOC announced in December that an election will not take place at this year's 140th IOC Session to choose the host of the 2030 Winter Olympic Games.

Bach indicated that the election will instead happen next year.

"By then we will have a clearer picture of the overall impact of climate change and the other challenges winter sports are facing," he added.

Esports opportunity

Bach also addressed the issue of esports' potential inclusion in the Olympic Games, saying the sector's best hope of getting the official seal of approval from the IOC is via the field of virtual reality.

"Our approach to esports is with a priority on virtual sports, meaning reality sports, where there is physical activity, like cycling or rowing. In the meantime, you have even taekwondo in the electronic form, and a number of other sports," he said on Saturday in Beijing.

The Olympic Esports Series 2023 was held in March, with archery, baseball, chess, cycling, dance, motorsports, sailing, taekwondo and tennis events open to professional and amateur players.

"This is what we are closest to because the physical activity of these athletes is on the same level as athletes in traditional sports. Whether you're doing a leg of the Tour de France on your bicycle at home, or you do the real leg, the physical activity is the same," he added.

In 2021, the IOC session unanimously approved the Olympic Agenda 2020+5, which includes encouraging the development of virtual sports and engaging with the gaming community.

According to Bach, however, there are "red lines" or "taboos" for such engagement.

"Any game which is contradictory to Olympic values, like games involving killing or games which are discriminatory, are an absolute taboo to the Olympic Movement," he said.

Bach believes that the Olympic Movement can be a positive influence on the esports industry. "We think we have something to offer to the elite gamers because they are facing, in some respects, the same challenges as athletes in traditional sports," he said.

Russian return

Meanwhile, Bach said on Saturday that the IOC is working to help athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports to return to international sports events. Some sports have banned athletes from these countries due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking at an IOC executive board meeting in March, Bach noted the decision about whether Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to compete at next year's Paris Olympics would be taken "at the appropriate time".

Athletes from these countries could potentially take part in the Paris Olympics under a neutral status.

"Now we are undertaking all the efforts to accomplish the mission, and the offer of the Olympic Movement is to have athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports back in the international competitions," Bach said.

We are in very close cooperation and exchange with the international federations, who at this moment are responsible for running their competitions. We hope very much that this mission can then be accomplished under the conditions which have been established — that the athletes from these two countries must take part in a neutral status, so that we can really unify the whole world with a view to the Olympic Games in Paris.

Bach admitted that the decision risks being politicized, but insisted that any boycott "would only punish their (a boycotting country's) own athletes".

He also urged governments to stay out of the decision-making of international sports federations.

"You know the statements of governments who want to decide who can participate in the Olympics and international sports competitions," he said. "We have to be very firm that these decisions be taken by the relevant sports organizations."

Photo: Cui Jun for China Daily
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