ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece, September 29 (R-Sport, David Nowak) – Newly elected International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told R-Sport on Sunday that the African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Olympics prompted him to enter sports politics.
Twenty-eight African countries pulled out of the Summer Games, where Bach won a fencing gold medal for West Germany, in protest at the IOC's decision to allow New Zealand to participate after its rugby team toured Apartheid-ravaged South Africa.
Many athletes had already competed and were distraught at being pulled out of the athletes' village.
"The first approach to sports politics was one event in Montreal when I was looking out of the window of our apartment in the Olympic village and I saw that the African athletes had to leave the village. I saw the athletes in tears and having to leave," he said.
"And there it was the first thought that there is something wrong in the relationship between sports and politics," the 59-year-old added.
Bach, then 23, put the incident in the back of his mind and went on to win team gold in the foil discipline.
The issues returned with a vengeance, however, when he was forbidden by his country from defending his title at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, which was boycotted by more than 60 nations in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
"After this I really took the decision that if I can help so that something like this does not happen to athletes in future generations then I’m ready to help," he said.
Bach, a lawyer by profession, won a six-way contest to succeed long-serving president Jacques Rogge at the helm of the IOC earlier this month. He first became an IOC member in 1991 and has served as vice-president three times.
R-Sport is the sports arm of RIA Novosti, the host news agency for the Sochi Winter Games.