The race for top position in world sport will officially begin on Thursday. Six candidates for Presidency of the International Olympic Committee will each have 15 minutes to outline and present their manifestos to 100-plus members of the Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland.
One of the six candidates bidding to replace outgoing IOC President, Jacques Rogge in September, is the greatest pole vaulter in history - Olympic champion Sergey Bubka of Ukraine.
Al Jazeera spoke to the legendary athlete who has set new high-flying goal on the eve of the Extraordinary IOC Session.
Sergey, you've achieved a lot in sport, business and politics. Why did you decide to run for IOC president?
Sport - it’s all my life. After finishing my career as an athlete I was in no doubt what to do, and I chose sports management. I have been working as a sports manager at the International Olympic Committee for almost twenty years. In 1996 I joined the IOC Athletes' Commission, in 1999 I became a member of the IOC and last year I was re-elected to the IOC Executive Board. I have also worked at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for 12 years, including 6 years as a vice-president, and I have led the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine for 8 years. Our work for Ukraine’s NOC has been recognised for making it one of the most successful NOCs in the world, by implementing many unique projects. Behind this work there has been a lot of experience as well as trust from athletes and top managers in the sports world – of this I am particularly proud.
I think that in order to further the successful legacy left by Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge, to go ahead and continue to perform the function inherent in the Olympic Charter, a person with knowledge of the sport from the inside is needed, someone with a clear vision of the development of the Olympic Movement with energy and drive. I believe that I possess all these qualities, therefore I am proposing my candidacy for the highest position in modern sport.
There are six candidates in the race for IOC presidency. What makes you different from other contenders?
It wouldn't be appropriate to discuss other candidates. All of them have large experience in the Olympic movement and deserve to work as IOC president. I respect all of them.
As for me, my life in sports started when I was 12 and successfully continues today. This experience allows me to say that I know sport from the inside as an athlete and a manager. Being also a businessman, this gives me the opportunity to dedicate all my time to work for the benefit of the Olympic movement. I'm always open to dialogue and the exchange of views. In the coming months I plan to introduce to IOC members new ideas related to the involvement of young people in our movement through new projects and new media.
We need to strengthen the role and position of the IOC in co-operation with authorities, non-governmental organisations, media and commercial partners so we can deliver our ideas and popularise the movement. It is very important to attract the best representatives from different spheres: business, politics, culture, science, so that we can make the Olympic movement an integral part of life in society. I am willing to discuss and put these ideas into place. I would be honoured to work in any position on behalf of the Olympic family, including the most responsible position, that of the IOC President.
It is no secret that sports of high achievement have many problems. If you win, what will you deal with in the first instance?
Firstly, I would like to say that the IOC is the most successful sports organisation in the world and the Olympic Games - although an event of the scale and resonance that it invokes in the world - cannot be used alone for comparison. Yes,
Doping remains the greatest threat to sports and it’s still a key target for the IOC… there is steadily growing awareness that only victory in a fair way is valuable and legitimate. Combating the use of doping is not finished, it must, and will continue.
sport, like any other sphere of activity, is facing challenges. One of the most serious is doping. Doping remains the greatest threat to sports and it’s still a key target for the IOC. The Committee does everything possible to reduce the number of cheaters, including creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). We’ve achieved a lot fighting for fair game. In the athletic environment there is steadily growing awareness that only victory in a fair way is valuable and legitimate. Combating the use of doping is not finished, it must, and will continue.
The other problem which the Olympic Committee should consider involves youth. One of the main disturbing trends of modern society is the low level of physical activity among children. Computers and other multimedia toys distract their attention, and diabetes and obesity are now among the most common diseases with teenagers. We are facing the risk of losing an entire generation. The only alternative is a healthy and active lifestyle. There are plenty of opportunities to work with the younger generation - holding tournaments for children, volunteer programs at prestigious competitions and global promotional campaigns involving sports stars.
There is much discussion concerning a place for wrestling in the Olympic Games program. In your opinion is there a place for this sport in the Olympic Games?
Wrestling is one of the oldest and one of the most popular sports in history. It would be a shame if the Olympic family did not recognise this sport.
It must be said that the decision on wrestling’s status which was adopted in February, positively changed the Wrestling Federation. In a very short period of time, athletes and fans have teamed up to fight for the sport’s place in the Games. Many innovative solutions were introduced designed to bring the sport to modern requirements. There is hope that the IOC, working with the International Wrestling Federation will find a solution from which not only the sport but the Olympic movement itself will benefit.
You are energetic and a goal-oriented person. Who inspires you?
I am inspired by the belief in the idea which I serve. I always remember the words of Nelson Mandela - that sports have the power "to change the world ... to inspire ... to unite people." Indeed sport changes people’s lives for the better. It motivates and gives goals, brings people together, teaches them to live by rules, and it builds strength of character. In the process of cultural exchange between nations the role of Olympic sports is huge, especially in recent years, when the Cultural Olympiad has become an integral part of the Games. Now, every country and every culture can manifest itself not only in the arena of competition, but in the sphere of culture, and the Games themselves are beyond the purely sporting event.
Of course, I am motivated by my family and close friends, as well as a team that works with me. Despite the fact that I was engaged in an individual sport, for me teamwork and team results has always been important. Therefore, I consider it a great honour to be part of the International Olympic Committee.
There are six candidates running for IOC's president. They are Thomas Bach (Germany), Richard Carrion (Puerto Rico), Ser Milang Ng (Singapore), Denis Oswald (Switzerland), Ching-Kuo Wu (Taiwan) and Sergey Bubka (Ukraine). The president elections will take place on 10th of September during the 125th IOC Session, in Buenos Aires Argentina.
Anna Lidster is a freelance sports journalist who has written for the Siberian Times, Daily Mail and BBC World Service. You can follow her on twitter @AShlyakhtenko