Liam Morgan

So Thomas Bach will be President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until at least 2025. Quelle surprise.

Bach, the German lawyer who has led the IOC since 2013, confirmed he would seek a second term in the top office in sport during the organisation's virtual Session last week.

Neither the announcement from Bach, nor the fawning adoration which followed his speech, were particularly astounding.

What quickly became apparent, judging by the response to Bach's report, was the IOC membership is seemingly more submissive virtually than in person, which takes some doing.

Mockery and sarcasm aside, there is a serious point to be made here. After Bach confirmed the inevitable, around a third of the membership lined up to praise the German and thank him for his decision to stand for re-election next year.

As German journalist Jens Weinreich noted in a recent piece for Der Spiegel, words such as wisdom, vision and integrity were never far away in a gushing display which bordered on the embarrassing.

IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed he will seek a second term during the virtual IOC Session last week ©IOC
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed he will seek a second term during the virtual IOC Session last week ©IOC

In total, 35 members during the Session – a couple saved their praise for later in the Thomas Bach show, while another, Filomena Fortes of Cape Verde, had technical issues when waiting to add her congratulations – welcomed the 66-year-old's announcement. There probably would have been more had the Session been held as normal.

When it came to the report from the organisers of the first Olympic Games to be postponed in the history of the event, the silence was deafening. There were no questions, comments or interventions from the members. Not a single one.

No questions about how on earth an Olympic Games can be staged in the current climate. No comments on the continuing lack of detail emanating from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. Nothing. Zero. Nada. Nichts.

The IOC will tell you this is because Bach is doing such a great job, but in reality it paints a picture of an autocratic organisation whose members would rather pander to their leader than ask the questions that need asking.

After all, it is not as if Tokyo 2020's presentation to the Session provided all the answers. It is impossible to see how anyone could think they did.

This is not necessarily the fault of the organisers, who have a mammoth task to complete in unprecedented times and whose inability to disclose full details is an understandable consequence of the current situation.

IOC members lined up to support Bach and his decision to stand for re-election ©IOC
IOC members lined up to support Bach and his decision to stand for re-election ©IOC

It is the job of the IOC membership to challenge Olympic Games Organising Committees on all aspects of the event in normal circumstances, let alone amid a global health crisis.

The failure of the Session to do so once again was not surprising. Since Bach took the reigns in 2013, the membership has become increasingly passive, to the point where, as plenty have noted, the Session is now little more than a rubber-stamping echo chamber.

The majority of the current crop seem more interested in protecting their own futures and being seen to support the leadership than fulfilling the mission they signed up to, and the sycophancy in the praise for Bach was striking.

The only notable interventions in a five-hour long Session came from International Equestrian Federation Ingmar De Vos, who raised a sensible question when it came to discussing the postponement of the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games, and a combination of IOC Athletes' Commission vice-chair Danka Bartekova and Germany's Britta Heidemann, who asked about pre-Tokyo 2020 drug testing.

Such a meek return is simply not good enough. Newly-elected IOC members have to read an oath, part of which includes the line: "I promise to serve the Olympic Movement to the best of my ability."

Save for the aforementioned few, and the usual outspoken suspects, how many of the rest can claim they live up to that promise during Sessions?

The virtual nature of the latest gathering of the members may make genuine debate, rarely seen at a Session at the best of times, more difficult, but the fact that over 30 – most of whom seemed to be reading from a prepared script – managed to connect to heap praise on Bach shows that is not a valid excuse.

Thomas Bach was elected IOC President in Buenos Aires in 2013 ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach was elected IOC President in Buenos Aires in 2013 ©Getty Images

Of course, there are those on the IOC who have seen what happens to those who dare raise their head above the parapet. The likes of Britain's Adam Pengilly and Germany's Claudia Bokel can attest to that.

A more recent example came at the IOC Session last year, where Sir Craig Reedie had the temerity to ask a perfectly reasonable question regarding the Diacks and Dakar 2022 and was met with admonishment and disdain from Bach, both publicly and privately.

Such a restrictive culture is not conducive to healthy debate and discussion, the cornerstones of a democracy – which the IOC is supposed to be, remember.

Bach is virtually untouchable in his current position and there is as much chance of someone standing against him next year as there is of a member disputing a decision from the administration during a Session.

He can remain IOC President until at least 2025, but it is not inconceivable that he may push for a Charter change to ensure he can stay longer.

Under IOC rules, the President can serve two terms, a first of eight years and a second of four years, as part of limits introduced in 1999.

Yet a view exists that Bach, keen to prolong his tenure towards the 21-year stint enjoyed by one of his predecessors, Juan Antonio Samaranch, will try to orchestrate an extension at some point over the next quadrennium.

Do not be surprised if he succeeds. A Charter change requires the support of the Session, which, judging by last week's virtual meeting, Bach can almost certainly count on.