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Bach the man to beat in IOC presidential election

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm •  Published: September 9, 2013
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — With two big votes out of the way, the IOC awaits another critical decision: electing a new president to lead the Olympic body into the next decade.

Thomas Bach of Germany goes into Tuesday's International Olympic Committee vote as the strong favorite among the field of six candidates vying for the most powerful job in world sports.

Bach, a 59-year-old lawyer and IOC vice president who heads Germany's national Olympic body, has long been considered the front-runner to succeed Jacques Rogge, the 71-year-old Belgian who is stepping down after 12 years in office.

Richard Carrion, a Puerto Rican banking executive who heads the IOC's finance commission, and vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore are viewed as the top challengers.

Also on the ballot are executive board members Sergei Bubka of Ukraine and C.K. Wu of Taiwan and former board member Denis Oswald of Switzerland.

The campaign headed into its final, frantic hours with candidates trying to line up votes. The lobby, corridors, restaurants and bars of the IOC hotel were swirling with rumors, gossip, speculation and whispers of deals, alliances and voting counts.

With Bach's supporters confident of securing a first-round victory, his rivals were privately discussing possible voting alliances to try to stop the German.

If Bach is elected, he would continue Europe's hold on the presidency. Of the IOC's eight leaders, all have come from Europe except for Avery Brundage, the American who ran the committee from 1952-72.

"This is like I'm an athlete and I'm just in front of a great final," Bach, a former Olympic fencer, said Monday. "You feel you have done all your training, the test events have been going pretty well, so you can go with confidence in the competition. But you have to know that, at the grand final, everybody is on the same starting line."

The campaign, which had been relatively civil, took a nasty turn in recent days, with Oswald attacking Bach in a Swiss radio interview, accusing him of using his business connections and links with Kuwait to help his candidacy.

Asked if he would pull out of the race, Oswald told RTS Radio: "Certainly not in favor of Thomas Bach. The values are not the same."

None of the six candidates has made any dramatic proposals for change, promising to continue the line pursued by Rogge, particularly in the fight against doping.

The election follows Saturday's IOC decision to award the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo and Sunday's vote to reinstate wrestling for the 2020 and 2024 Games. The presidential vote is what most of the 100-plus IOC members have been focusing on.

"It's absolutely the most important decision we make — to find the right person tomorrow," senior Norwegian member Gerhard Heiberg said.

As with most IOC votes, nothing is ever certain. The election is done by secret ballot, so promises made to candidates are never a sure thing.

Much of the pre-election talk among the members has been about the power of one man: Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti with the long permed hair who heads the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The sheik, who has been described as a potential "kingmaker," is a key backer of Bach. With his influence in Asia and among the national Olympic committees, the Kuwaiti can deliver a large number of votes. He was seen as playing a key role in Tokyo's victory, even helping Istanbul get to the second round of voting to keep Madrid out of the final.

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