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IOC President Thomas Bach is due to speak at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is due to speak at the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in New York on Saturday (September 26), a key-step in his highly-publicised aim of including sport as one of the UN's goals following the event.

Read more: IOC President to deliver speech at UN General Assembly with sport set to be included in...

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recalled his days as an Olympic athlete representative with Sebastian Coe here today as he said he was “absolutely sure” that, under the Briton's impending Presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the two organisations would work “very, very closely together” to eradicate doping.

Bach’s first question at the joint IAAF/IOC press conference related to the current problem athletics has with doping allegations and how significant it would be for Coe to be involved as President.

“You may know that Sebastian Coe and I have come a long way together and actually this was started with the fight against doping in 1981 when as athlete representatives in the Olympic Congress in Baden-Baden we were asking for a lifelong ban for any infringement on the anti-doping rules," he said.

“From this time on we have always been together in this fight and in this effort to protect the clean athletes.

“This is why I am not only confident, this is why I am absolutely sure that the IOC and IAAF, with President Seb Coe, will work very, very closely together in a zero tolerance policy against doping.”

Bach, winner of a fencing team gold medal in the foil for Germany at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, added that both he and Coe had vainly sought lifetime bans for doping at that time.

“If you ask me about my emotions I would say really, yes, a lifetime ban I would still support,” he said.

“But I had to learn from different courts and lawyers, like Seb Coe and others asking for this, that this is legally just not possible.

“A lifelong ban does not stand any kind of challenge, so we have to accept this.

“It is a matter of human rights.”

Cricket may not be an Olympic sport - yet - but Bach played a straight bat to the question of how the IOC felt about the recent allegations that had been levelled at thenumber one Olympic sport.

“First of all it is too early here to speculate about results,” he said.

“We have been in contact with the IAAF from the very beginning of these allegations and have had the opportunity to discuss the subject on different levels.

“We have also learned about the statement from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the Independent Commission from WADA which I think is very clear.

“Until 2009, before the Athlete Biological Passport was introduced, none of the test results contained in this database could be used as proof for doping.

“They could only serve as an indication for target testing.

"And there the IAAF has explained to us in different ways that this is what they have done, following up with the target testing.

“Since WADA said at the same time that it would be libellous to make the allegations of doping at this point in time I will not make such allegation and such comments.

“We are waiting now together with the IAAF for the results of the enquiry of this Independent Commission.”

Bach added that Coe’s proposal of establishing an independent anti-doping authority within world athletics was “quite interesting”, adding that it would be discussed at tne Olympic Summit in Lausanne during October.

“Obviously the protection of clean athletes will be on the agenda and we will have the opportunity to discuss the proposal among others because we always give thought to ways of improving the fight against doping in sport.”

Asked if he felt action had to be taken to “restore the credibility” of athletics in the wake of recent doping allegations, outgoing IAAF President Lamine Diack responded: “I don’t think it has been lost.

"There are allegations, accusations, lots of upheaval in the press. 

"But if all this leads people to believe our sport is lost, where are we going then?

“There are all these accusations that we have done nothing, which is wrong, I think this is just sensational journalism.

"They are just trying to take advantage of this. the credibility of our sport has not been impinged.

 “So Seb Coe takes the relay baton. He goes on fighting with the same transparency and strength.

“If you write in a paper that the doping results have been hidden since 2001, this is ridiculous, it hardly deserves an answer.

“We are trying to solve this problem as well as we can. Do you think we are doing nothing?

“If you think that one positive result is more important than 1,000 negative results there is nothing much I can do for you.”


Thomas Bach held out hope to Allyson Felix today that she might yet be able to realise her ambition of challenging for both the 200 and 400m titles at next year’s Rio Olympics.

As things stand Felix, who is due to compete over both distances here at the 15th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, cannot do the same in Rio as the track and field programme does not allow it.

But Bach responded positively to a question asked on the topic at the IAAF/IOC press conference:

“The Olympic programme has been defined in principle, but if we have a special case where we could help an athlete we should still be ready to discuss it.

“I cannot give you the result up front of such discussions, but we would be ready to reconsider this matter and see how we could or what we could do because this would be not about one event, it would have repercussions on others.”

The track and field programme was similarly altered at the 1996 Atlanta Games, offering Felix’s fellow US athlete Michael Johnson the opportunity of becoming the first man to win Olympic 200 and 400 titles at the same Games - an opportunity he took, clocking a world record of 19.32sec and 43.49 respectively.

Lamine Diack, outgoing President of the IAAF, sounded a little less positive on the subject however, commenting:

“Thomas gave us an answer and there’s nothing to add.

“But if we want to accommodate each and every single athlete it will be very difficult.”


T&T is among some 13 countries publicly backing Sebastian Coe's campaign to become the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). 

Twelve of the Federations to have come out in support of Britain's double Olympic 1500 metres champion are from the North American, Central America and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC).

Coe had visited the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica's capital San José last weekend, along with Sergey Bubka, his rival from Ukraine.

Apart from T&T, the countries backing him are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Puerto Rico, St Vincent and Grenadines,  Turks and Caicos and US Virgin Islands.

They join Canada and Jamaica, members of the NACAC who had already publicly backed Coe ahead of the election to replace Senegal's Lamine Diack, who is stepping down after 16 years, at the IAAF Congress in Beijing on Wednesday. 

Several other of the NACAC's 31 members are also expected to vote for Coe, including the United States, who have already revealed they will not say publicly who they are supporting. 

Greece have also joined the growing number of European countries supporting Coe.

Ghana became the first country from Africa to publicly promise to vote for Coe, while Peru, Paraguay, Singapore and Thailand had pledged their support for Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion. 

It takes to 36 the number of countries who have publicly endorsed Coe, compared to five for Bubka. 


As the opening date for the London Olympics nears, Beijing's acclaimed Olympic venues are saddled with high maintenance costs and are struggling to get by. And the most famous, the Bird's Nest stadium, has been repudiated by its own creator, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Even the state-run government mouthpiece, the China Daily, worries that Beijing's iconic structures risk becoming "white elephants."

To the bang of drums and the roar of the crowds, Beijing's 2008 Olympics opened with a boom. The spectacular opening ceremony was fitting for the spectacular Bird's Nest. Girdled with strips of concrete, it was an ambitious structure for a new superpower.

But four years on, the Bird's Nest is looking tired and empty.

A 'Kind Of Dirty' Construction Zone

These days, a smattering of mostly Chinese tour groups trickles though the stadium. Visitor numbers are in free fall: They plummeted by half in the first six months of 2011 compared with a year before, according to state-run media. The Bird's Nest cost $480 million to build, and its upkeep costs $11 million a year.

But the only international visitors sitting in the stands on a recent day aren't impressed.

"For me, it's just a huge concrete place," says German tourist Christian Lodz. "Personally I think, after four years, it looks a little bit shabby."

"What I think is interesting is that it's just not used for anything useful," says his countryman Henne Zelle, waving at a crane and tarpaulins in the middle of the stadium. "There's a construction zone there, and it's kind of dirty."

The problem is how to fill the empty expanse of seats; the stadium is designed to house 91,000 spectators.

Since the Olympics, a number of tactics have been tried: The construction of man-made ski slopes turned it temporarily into a winter wonderland, and tightrope walker Adili Wuxor spent two months living suspended on a tightrope above the Bird's Nest trying to set a new world record.

It's a far cry from the world record set by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who set the mark for the 100 meters and the 200 meters in the packed Bird's Nest. Now, tourists wobble around the same track on Segways, which they hire for just over $20 for 15 minutes.

There's even a small waxworks museum, exhibiting figurines of all the past and present presidents of the International Olympic Committee. When he called Beijing's Olympic venues "beautiful" and "unprecedented," current IOC President Jacques Rogge can hardly have known he would be immortalized in wax inside one of those venues, always photo-ready, should the visitor be willing to part with $1.50 for the privilege.

But the long-term future of the stadium is unclear. The Beijing soccer team, Guo'an, shied away from making it their home, perhaps wary of the costs. There are few events that can fill enough seats.

This summer, the stadium stands unused — except as a tourist destination — for three months, from the end of an equestrian show in May until its next engagement, a soccer match between British teams Arsenal and Manchester City at the end of July.

Cube's Qualified Success Story

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, on the other hand, has found an afterlife. Known as the Water Cube, the translucent color-shifting building, where the swimming events were held, is the only Beijing Olympic venue that was financed by public donations, in this case by 350,000 overseas Chinese.

Now, one part of it has been turned into a water park, where swimmers shoot down colorful tubes into the pools of water. It's even launched a line of branded goods, including Water Cube alcohol, which sells at a cool $150 a bottle.

But still, turning a profit isn't easy.

"It's extremely, extremely difficult not to lose money," Yang Qiyong, the Water Cube's deputy manager, says with a frank laugh.

He angrily denies state-run media reports that the facility lost $1.5 million last year. But according to the state-run Global Times, Yang says the Water Cube attracted nearly 2.1 million visitors in 2011, 30 percent fewer compared with the year before.

"Although we put in a lot of effort, the trend of diminishing numbers can't be reversed," he says.

Yang says the Water Cube narrowly broke even last year, though it required $1.5 million in government subsidies.

"Without that money, we couldn't hold important sports events. Some international competitions clearly lose lots of money. But in order to maintain our venue's image, we must host them," Yang says.

And it's all about image.

"It really is worth it," Yang says. "Regardless of whether you're talking about Beijingers or Chinese people, we needed a landmark venue, a place whose image is beautiful."

China's Pride Or Propaganda?

Chinese tourist Wang Xiaoyu feels the same way, as he stands inside the Bird's Nest for the first time.

"I'm proud that China has this great architecture, that it can build such a great world monument. How can you not feel proud?" he asks, beaming from ear to ear.

The official audio tour describes the stadium in these symbolic terms: "The Bird's Nest, as a symbol of the rise of the Chinese nation, will follow the nation's footsteps in its rise to glory."

But the Chinese artist who helped conceive of the Bird's Nest now says he regrets having designed such a monument to China's Communist leaders.

Ai Weiwei designed the stadium, together with Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. But Ai has never set foot inside the finished building.

He told NPR that the stadium has become entirely divorced from ordinary people.

"We love this building, but we don't like the content they have put in, the kind of propaganda. They dissociated this building [from] citizens' celebration or happiness; [it's] not integrated with the city's life," Ai said. "So I told them I will never go to this building."

The triumphant music pumped out into the Bird's Nest over video of cheering crowds now falls into a vacuum. It was designed as a stage for China's coming-out party, to send a message to the world. But in this land of government-backed vanity projects, this empty, echoing stadium now sends a very different message.

-Louisa Lim

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