By Nick Butler at the Songdo Convensia in Incheon

Thomas Bach spoke alongside OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah this morning ©AFP/Getty ImagesInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has warned that it can "no longer afford" to claim the Olympics has nothing to do with politics.


Speaking today during his Opening Address to begin the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly, taking place on the first day of competition here at the Asian Games, Bach claimed the IOC must embrace and react to wider events.

"In the past, people have said sport is nothing to do with politics, or with money and business," he said.

"This attitude is wrong and we cannot afford it anymore.

"We have to partner up with the politicians who are running this world, and with international Governments.

"To ensure the functioning of worldwide sport, we must be politically neutral but realise that our decisions have political implications."

IOC President Thomas Bach with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon at the opening of the Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti ©AFP/Getty ImagesIOC President Thomas Bach with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon at the opening of the Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti ©AFP/Getty Images





 
The German, who celebrated his first year anniversary at the helm of the IOC earlier this month, described this approach as "a theme" of his first year in office, as shown by the growing partnership with the United Nations.

Bach cited South Korea's UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, who spoke to open the last IOC Session in Sochi, as a "great friend of the Olympic Movement with whom we enjoy and outstanding relations".

In his first year alone, the President has met 81 heads of State and Government, including South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who he has met here during his visit to Incheon 2014. 

He has also enjoyed close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, being regularly pictured with him during Sochi 2014 and sitting next to him at the FIFA World Cup final in Brazil in July. 

But Bach also insisted that National Olympic Committees must continue to have independence from their Governments.

Ireland's IOC Executive Board member Patrick Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees, was appointed earlier this to a new role to oversee NOC autonomy earlier this year.

IOC President Thomas Bach has been pictured regularly with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, including at Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesIOC President Thomas Bach has been pictured regularly with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, including at Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images

Bach's speech also praised the success of Asian sport and emphasised that cooperation between the IOC and OCA has "never been closer and better".

He also claimed that the Agenda 2020 reform process, due to conclude at the IOC Session in Monte Carlo on December 8 and 9, was vital to ensure that the Olympic Movement continued to prosper.

"Sport is too important to ignore what is happening in society," he said.

"If the world around you is enjoying progress, you cannot stand still.

"You have to move forward to impose your values, or sport will swiftly lose the importance it now has in society."

Contact the writer of this story at nick.butler@insidethegames.biz


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