Berlin (dpa) – Chancellor Angela Merkel and football icon Franz Beckenbauer led the way as Germany hailed the election of Thomas Bach as president of the International Olympic Committee. The Bild tabloid screamed on its website “The Olympic God is a German” after the 1976 Olympic fencing champion Bach scored a resounding victory in the secret ballot among IOC members in Buenos Aires.
Bach, 59, now has the top job in world sport which brings with it huge challenges but also helps Germany’s image around the world. “I am very happy that, through you, Germany continues to be represented in an outstanding way at an international level,” Merkel said in a German government statement. “Your election to the most important position in sports politics shows in an impressive way the prestige and confidence you enjoy within the Olympic family,” Merkel told Bach.
Merkel wished Bach “good luck” for the eight-year mandate, and German President Joachim Gauck wished him “luck, skill and sportsmanship.” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, whose portfolio includes sport, named Bach’s election “historic,” and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle “an honour for our country.”
But Green Party leader Claudia Roth also reminded Bach that not everything is rosy around the IOC and the Olympics. “It will now be his task to undertake an interior policy of transparency which fights and prevents corruption and patronage. On the outside the IOC must clearly distance itself from economic and profit interests. Olympic sport cannot degenerate into pure profiteering,” Roth said.
Beckenbauer, who captained and coached Germany to World Cup titles before becoming the chief organizer of the 2006 home tournament, led the
praise from the German sports community. “I have known Thomas for 40 years. Now he is the top sports official in the world. I congratulate him,” Beckenbauer said. Germany’s other IOC member, Claudia Bokel, said: “An IOC president from Germany, what more can you ask for! This is brilliant.”
Current German athletes also expressed their joy via Social network Twitter. Pole vault world champion Raphael Holzdeppe spoke of “a good choice” by the IOC, and two-times Olympic skiing champion Maria Riesch tweeted “Thomas Bach has done it, the first German IOC President.” Gymnast Fabian Hambuechen said “I am delighted that we have you at the top” and hurdler Caroline Nytra recalled Bach’s 1976 fencing gold when she said Bach “scaled Mount Olympus a second time – now as new IOC president.”
The German Olympic Committee (DOSB) must now look for a new president as Bach has to step down after getting the IOC top job. “It is a pity because we lose an outstanding DOSB president, but it is fantastic because we have won an IOC president from Germany,” DOSB general director Michael Vesper said.