International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has emphasised the critical need for unity in the sporting world amidst increasing geopolitical tensions.
He conveyed this message while welcoming attendees to the 2023 International Federation (IF) Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday, reports Xinhua. Speaking at the Olympic Museum, Bach highlighted sport’s ability to unite people, particularly during times of division. He emphasized the crucial need for solidarity in addressing the current global challenges facing the sports world. “The current geopolitical tensions are extremely complex. In such times, the unifying power of sport is more important than ever before,” said the IOC chief. “To be such a unifying power, it is essential that we all stand together.”
“Today, millions of people around the globe are longing for such a unifying force that brings us all together in our so confrontational world. Our role is clear: to unite – and not to deepen divisions. Therefore, we carry an important responsibility – to stand together for the power of sport and to live up to our shared mission to make the world a better place through sport.”
Bach then stated that the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games could serve as “a symbol of unity and peace,” capable of uniting the world. “We all share the expectations of millions of people around the globe,” he noted. “They all have to experience so many divisions and confrontations in their daily lives that they are longing for something that unifies us, something that gives us hope, something that gives us optimism. After the pandemic, people are longing to come together again.”
The IOC president also discussed the imminent future in the digital realm, where rapid advancements in AI and esports present both opportunities and challenges for the Olympic Movement.
He informed attendees about the mission of the newly formed IOC Esports Commission, chaired by IOC Member and International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient, to explore the creation of the Olympic Esports Games. Bach clarified that two guiding principles have already been established: “The first one is: whenever there is an IF engaged in esports, this IF will be our first go-to partner. The second principle is: we will again focus on our values and we will stay true to our values – the Olympic values of peace, respect, non-discrimination, and solidarity – that have guided us for over a century. “Our values are and remain the red line that we will not cross.
Any development in esports will be guided by these two principles and will be guided by the respect for these values.”
Bach pointed out the significant opportunities AI presents, noting its potential to transform many aspects of sports. “AI will change our lives and it will change sport. This is already happening in some sports. Just think of ‘VAR’ in football or ‘Hawk-Eye’ in tennis. AI has the potential to revolutionize the training of athletes. It has the potential to revolutionize judging and refereeing; sports broadcasting and the spectator experience; the organization of sport events; the list goes on and on.”
The IOC has established a working group of experts to guide the organization concerning AI. Bach invited the IFs to contribute their insights to this discussion. Bach’s address inaugurated the three-day IF Forum at the Olympic Museum, gathering 300 leaders from over 125 IFs. Themed “Sport (R)evolution,” this year’s event aims to address transformative issues in the IFs’ operational environment, with insights from industry experts and influential decision-makers in the global sports movement.
Reiterating his call for unity, Bach underscored that the sports movement can capitalize on developments like AI and esports only through collective effort. “If we proceed united and if we stand together, then we have every reason to be optimistic about the future of sport. At this IF Forum, you have the opportunity to set the course for this future,” he said.
“Our unity is our strength. We can harness the potential of the digital revolution only through collaboration and knowledge sharing. With many discussions at this IF Forum focused on the accelerating impact of technology on sport, I am eager to hear your perspectives and welcome your contributions, so that we can join forces. “In this way, we are living our Olympic motto – we can go faster, we will aim higher, we will become stronger – together.” The IF Forum concludes on Wednesday.