Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, has left open the possibility of remaining in power, a move that could significantly harm Sebastian Coe’s chances of replacing him.
Under IOC rules, Bach’s presidency must end in 2025 because of a 12-year term limit agreed after the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. However, on Sunday several IOC members advocated changing the Olympic charter next year to allow Bach to continue until 2029.
On a day when cricket, squash, baseball/softball, lacrosse and flag football were confirmed to be included in the Los Angeles 2028 Games, as the Guardian first revealed last week, Bach hinted he was ready to move on and gaining many members publicly supported him. They included the influential Algerian leader of African Olympic federations, Mustapha Berraf, who said he wanted the IOC to “go through this period of torment with a president who has proven his mettle.”
While Bach was given multiple opportunities to put an end to the speculation at an IOC press conference on Monday, he refused to do so. “I really appreciate this show of support and friendship for me,” he told reporters when asked about running for the 2025 election. “And for these reasons, it is a matter of mutual respect and personal relationships that such a sign of support and friendship cannot be dismissed.”
Bach’s comments may be bad news for Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500m champion and organizer of the 2012 London Games who is the only IOC member to publicly hint at a bid for the presidency.
Coe will turn 70 in September 2026, the year his IOC membership was due to expire due to age reasons, meaning an election in 2025 is his only chance of being elected. However, he must overcome several obstacles, including the fact that many IOC members would vote for Bach or, if he decides to resign, his chosen successor.
On Monday, Bach said his IOC colleagues wanted him to stay in office because they did not want an election campaign to disrupt preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics. He added that many members also wanted to “express their appreciation for the work done by the IOC over the last 10 years.”
When asked whether his passion for the Olympic movement might encourage him to continue, Bach again responded noncommittally. However, he indicated he would remain loyal to the Olympic Charter, which sets the rules for IOC members and limits how long they can remain in power.
“My love for sports and the Olympic movement applies regardless of officialdom,” he said. “I have made it clear that I am loyal to the Olympic Charter, and the fact that I was a co-author of the Olympic Charter also shows that I believe term limits are very sensible and necessary.
“At the same time, it is also a question of mutual respect for these members that my answers do not come via the media, but rather in direct contact.”