Thomas Bach speaking alongside IOC member Barry Maister during his visit to New Zealand ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has reiterated how the right to host the Olympic Games should not be reserved to "just 20 countries in the world" during a visit to New Zealand today, claiming his Agenda 2020 reform process will "open doors" for non-traditional hosts. 

Bach, who has already visited India, Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu during a frenetic tour to the Asia-Pacific region over the last week, spoke specifically about New Zealand when challenging the nation to put together a future bid that the IOC "cannot say no to".

"New Zealand is a great sports country," he claimed, as reported locally.

"You not only have successful athletes, you are somehow incorporating the Olympic spirit, the passion for sport.

"It would be very well appreciated if New Zealand would look into hosting the Olympic Games one day.

"The Olympic Games are universal; therefore we should open the doors and the windows.

"The change in mentality we have started: in the past we were putting conditions…now we're asking potential host countries, 'how do you think the Olympic Games would fit best into your long-term planning socially, financially and ecologically?

"Then give us your idea and we can discuss together whether we can make it happen."

Thomas Bach opened Olympic House in Auckland today alongside IOC member Barry Maister and NZOC President Mike Stanley ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach opened Olympic House in Auckland today alongside IOC member Barry Maister and NZOC President Mike Stanley ©Getty Images

New Zealand has never launched a formal Olympic bid, although there has been speculation in the recent past of a bid for either the Summer or Winter Games.

The nation has hosted the Commonwealth Games on three occasions: in Auckland in 1950 and 1990 and in Christchurch in 1974.

Among other major events, the Rugby Union World Cup also took place there in 2011, with the host nation beating France in the final, while various events have been co-hosted with Australia, including the Cricket World Cups in 1992 and 2015.

Bach sought to address many concerns about a possible bid, such as the need for new-expensive stadiums, as well as possible issues related to the time zone. 

"This is one of the points where we are the most flexible," he said, in relation to the construction of new stadiums,

"The new approach is about legacy, we do not want to see stadiums being built with capacities which are of no use any more afterwards.

"For the athletes the most important [thing] is not the number of spectators, it is that the stadium is packed with fan, there is great flexibility either with temporary stands or reducing the size."

Thomas Bach engaging in a typical Maori greeting before opening Olympic House ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach engaging in a typical Maori greeting before opening Olympic House ©Getty Images

But despite Bach's enthusiasm, New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) President Mike Stanley was realistic in pointing out that such a bid would still cost "billions, if not the tens of billions".

"There's a question about whether New Zealand wants to go down that path at all," he said.

"No matter how the Games change in their delivery, they're still a significant undertaking, still a mega-event.

"Sporting infrastructure, transport infrastructure, all these things have to be delivered to provide the level of service they require. It's something we haven't seen within the scope of New Zealand.

During the first of a two-day visit to the nation today, IOC President Thomas Bach was welcomed with a traditional powhiri ceremony, before he met with officials including Stanley and New Zealand's two IOC members, Barry Maister and Barbara Kendall. 

He went on to formally open Olympic House, the home the NZOC, claiming it was a great honour to be welcomed formally to New Zealand,  with a "touching, solemn ceremony", thanking his hosts "for this symbol of peace and friendship". 

He added: “Like the Olympic Movement, the welcome ceremony signifies peace, friendship and equality and it shows how New Zealanders embrace the same values we do of tolerance and understanding through sport.”

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April 2015: Bach encourages Australian bid for 2028 Olympics but warns competition will be "tough"