Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, has left open the possibility of staying in power, a move that could significantly hurt Sebastian Coe’s chances of replacing him.
Under IOC rules, Bach’s presidency has to end in 2025 because of a 12-year term limit agreed following the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. However on Sunday, several IOC members argued for the Olympic charter to be changed next year to allow Bach to keep going until 2029.
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Speaking on a day when cricket, squash, baseball/softball, lacrosse and flag football were all confirmed to be included in the Los Angeles 2028 games, as first revealed last week by the Guardian, Bach hinted at his openness to stay on and many members backed him publicly. They included the influential Algerian leader of African Olympic bodies, Mustapha Berraf, who said he wanted the IOC “to go through this period of torment with a president who has proved his mettle”.
While Bach was given multiple opportunities to end speculation at an IOC press conference on Monday, he refused to do so. “I appreciate very much this show of support and friendship for me,” he told journalists when asked about a 2025 election bid. “And for these reasons, it is a matter of mutual respect and personal relationships that you do not dismiss such a sign of support and friendship out of hand.”
Bach’s comments are potentially bad news for Coe, the double Olympic 1500m champion and the organiser of the London 2012 Games, who is the only IOC member to publicly hint at a bid for the presidency.
Coe turns 70 in September 2026, the year his IOC membership should expire due to age, meaning a 2025 election is his only chance of getting elected. However he has several obstacles to overcome, including the fact that many IOC members would vote for Bach or – if he decides to step down – his chosen successor.
Speaking on Monday, Bach explained that his IOC colleagues wanted him to stay on as they did not want an election campaign disrupting the preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympics. He added that many members also wanted to “express their recognition for the work accomplished by the IOC in the last 10 years”.
Seb Coe has hinted at standing for the IOC presidency in 2025. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images
Asked if his passion for the Olympic movement might encourage him to stay on, Bach was again non-committal. However he did hint at being loyal to the Olympic Charter, which sets out the rules for the IOC members and limits how long they can stay in power.
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“My love for sport and the Olympic movement is irrespective of any offices,” he said. “I have made it clear how loyal I am to the Olympic Charter and having been a co-author of the Olympic Charter also speaks for the fact that I’m thinking that term limits are making a lot of sense and necessary.
“But the same time, it’s a matter of mutual respect for these members that my answers are not given over the media but in direct contact.”