Pole vault great Sergei Bubka of Ukraine entered the crowded IOC presidential race yesterday, citing his youthful energy and experience as an Olympic champion as key ingredients in his bid for the top job.
The 49-year-old six-times former world champion declared his candidacy to succeed Jacques Rogge, who steps down in September after 12 years as head of the International Olympic Committee.
Bubka became the sixth, and likely final, contender in the campaign, completing a record field for the IOC presidency. The deadline for declarations is 6 June. As a 1988 Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder who came into the IOC as a representative of the athletes, Bubka presents a different kind of candidate.
“I always dreamed to give some something back,” he said at a news conference. “I always dreamed to be with the international movement. This is my life. I have passion. I have drive. I have energy to dedicate to the movement which gave me basically everything I have. Sport is in my life. Sport is in my genes.”
Bubka joined a group of candidates that includes IOC vice presidents Thomas Bach of Germany and Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, amateur boxing association chief CK Wu of Taiwan, and international rowing federation head Denis Oswald of Switzerland. The election will be held on 10 September in Buenos Aires.
Bubka is by far the youngest candidate in the race, ten years younger than the 59-year-old Bach. Wu and Oswald are the oldest, both 66. Bubka announced his candidacy on the sidelines of the SportAccord Convention in St Petersburg and one day before the start of IOC executive board meetings.
St Petersburg was a symbolic choice because it was in the city 30 years ago that Bubka first qualified for the world track and field championships. He went on to win the first of his six consecutive world championships in Helsinki in 1983. “I consider St Petersburg a good place to announce a new journey in my life,” he said.
In a letter to IOC members, Bubka listed his background as an athlete, businessman and sports administrator. Hserved as the athletes’ member on the policymaking IOC executive board from 2000-2008, was elected a full-time IOC member in 2008 and has served on several commissions.
Bubka has also been a vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations since 2007. He and Sebastian Coe have been considered the main contenders to succeed IAAF President Lamine Diack in 2015. “I am here because of athletics,” Bubka said. “Athletics, and the Olympic movement, this is in my heart. This is my life, my passion. And of course today, today we have the election for IOC presidency. And I think this is a good time to run for IOC president.”
Bubka appeared in four Olympics from 1988 to 2000, winning the pole vault gold medal for the former Soviet Union at the 1988 Games in Seoul. He failed to clear any height at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics and withdrew with an injury before competing in 1996.
Bubka set a total of 35 world records – indoors and out – during his career. He still holds the outdoor (6.14 metres, set in 1994) and indoor (6.15m, set in 1993) records in the event.
“From a young age I wanted to become an Olympian and I was fortunate enough to achieve my dream,” he said in his letter. “I was lucky. I had the right team around me. Even as an individual doing an individual sport, you cannot succeed alone. Only together, we are strong. Only together, we will be able to address the challenges that lie ahead of us.” Like the other candidates, Bubka spoke of the need to engage with young people and fight doping, irregular betting, match-fixing and youth obesity. He said he would present his full manifesto to the members in “due course”.
Bubka supported Rogge’s recent proposal for the next president to be paid a salary, a break in IOC tradition where the presidency is an unpaid volunteer position. Bubka said he backed the idea because the presidency is a full-time job but said, if elected, he would donate his salary to charity, saying he is well-off enough to go without pay. The president’s travel and other expenses are covered by the IOC.
Bubka said he had an open mind on one of the key issues for IOC members – whether to reinstate their right to visit cities bidding for the Olympics. The visits were banned in 2000 in the wake of the Salt Lake City bid scandal, which exposed improper payments and gifts to IOC members.
“Times are changing rapidly,” Bubka said. “If the members feel it is necessary, we can review the situation.”