Bach's IOC reforms: We want 'fresh wind coming in'
LONDON (AP) A revised bidding process. A flexible sports program. More affordable games. Creation of an Olympic television channel.
IOC President Thomas Bach's reforms may not represent a radical revolution, but they herald the most sweeping changes in the Olympic movement since the cleanup of the Salt Lake City bid scandal in 1999.
Bach's ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' is a package of 40 measures designed to modernize the Olympics, protect the brand and convince potential bid cities that hosting the games is worth the multi-billion-dollar price tag.
The IOC executive board meets Friday and Saturday in Monaco, reviewing Rio de Janeiro's efforts in tackling delays, water pollution and uncertainty over the golf course for the 2016 Olympics. The board also will discuss South Korea's bumpy preparations for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, where a local funding dispute has raised concerns over the project.
The full International Olympic Committee will meet Monday and Tuesday to vote on the reform proposals.
The recommendations are all expected to win approval from the 100-plus members, giving Bach a strong endorsement and putting a firm stamp on his presidency just 16 months into office.
''We want to show that the IOC is opening up,'' Bach said. ''We are opening a window and we want to have fresh wind coming in.''
The IOC is trying to make the Olympics more attractive and less costly at a time when many Western European countries are turning their backs on the games.
Spooked by the reported $51 billion overall price tag associated with the 2014 Sochi Games, a half dozen cities abandoned plans or pulled out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the race.
A look at the key changes:
The system will become more of an invitation rather than a tender application, introducing an ''assistance phase'' where cities discuss their plans with the IOC to tailor the games to suit their own needs.
''We need a completely different approach,'' Bach said. ''In the past, it was more the IOC being the instructor and the judge of the candidate cities. Now, if all this is adopted, the IOC will be more the partner of the bidding cities.''
To cut down on costs and avoid white elephants, cities will be urged to make the maximum use of existing and temporary venues.
In one of the most radical changes, cities will be allowed to hold events in the Summer Olympics outside the host city or country, ''notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.'' This opens the door to joint bids by cities, neighboring countries or regions - including, for example, games held in different Gulf nations.
The host city contract will be made public and include clauses on non-discrimination and environmental and labor protection.
The IOC will apply limits of 10,500 athletes, 5,000 accredited coaches and officials and 310 medal events for the Summer Games, and 2,900 athletes, 2,000 accredited personnel and 100 medal events for the Winter Olympics.
The IOC will scrap the current limit of 28 sports in the Summer Games and move from a sports-based to an ''event-based'' program. The new system would allow flexibility to add new events and disciplines, especially those that resonate with younger audiences.
Host cities will be allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more events for their edition of the games.
This should clear the way for Japanese organizers to request the inclusion of baseball and softball in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Both sports, dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games, are highly popular in Japan.
The IOC plans to set up a digital channel to promote Olympic sports between the games and engage with young viewers.
Modeled in part after the National Geographic channel, the network will also feature material from the IOC's catalog of archive footage.
The channel's initial funding will come from broadcast and sponsorship rights. The project will be run by the IOC's Madrid-based broadcasting agency, Olympic Broadcasting Services.
No launch date has been announced, but officials hope the channel could be on the air next year.
The IOC will work with international federations to achieve 50 percent female participation in the Olympics and encourage mixed-gender team events.
The wording of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter on non-discrimination will be revised to include sexual orientation. The move follows the outcry that erupted ahead of the Sochi Games over a Russian law prohibiting gay ''propaganda.''
The new clause says the Olympics should be free of discrimination ''of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.''
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