Thomas Bach: it's not all about Thomas Bach

Thomas Bach is, by any account, one of the most accomplished and experienced senior figures now moving on the Olympic stage. The 57-year-old International Olympic Committee vice-president is also head of the German Olympic sports confederation and plays a leading role in the Munich 2018 Winter Games bid. It is a measure of Bach's range of experience that, as the IOC Evaluation Commission on Tuesday began its inspection this week of the Munich bid, Bach's resume says he has twice before -- in the 1990s -- led such IOC inspection teams. Will Bach run for the IOC presidency in 2013? Would the IOC award the Games to Germany and then two years later grant the presidency as well to a German? Or is that two-fer just too much? These sorts of questions frame the backdrop against which most close IOC observers believe the 2018 race is taking shape. The IOC will pick the 2018 winner on July 6; Annecy, France, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, are also in the race.

Bach sat for a Q&A with 3 Wire Sports during the recent world alpine ski championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany -- where, if Munich wins the 2018 derby, the ski events would be staged. He had to hold the tape-recorder microphone close to ensure that he could be heard over the enthusiastic, standing room-only crowd.

3 Wire: Munich is now running for the 2018 Winter Games. The first, and most obvious, questions: Why Munich, and why now?

Bach: Because with Munich we could show that winter sports can be organized in a modern way in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and it could be organized with great passion and by a really excited public, which is very much appealing to the athletes -- who like to do winter sports in Germany, in Munich and in Garmisch. Even the last skier coming in has been greeted with standing ovations, celebrated in a unique way in full stadia. This is one part of the reason.

The other one, [why] we think now it's the right time for Olympic Games in Munich and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, [is] because it is important that the Games from time to time are re-loading the batteries, that they are coming back to their roots, enjoying Olympic atmosphere and Olympic tradition, and then from there on you can take it again to new shores. It may be a little bit like the situation with the [soccer] World Cup, where we had this great atmosphere in the 2006 World Cup here in Germany and then handed it over to the new territory, South Africa -- [a] kind of cycle which makes it the right time for Munich now.

3 Wire: On the way down here, on the drive down the autobahn from Munich to Garmisch, it's so obvious -- the first thing that comes to mind, the BMWs and the Audis moving at 180 kilometers per hour, the way those cars move, is their reliability and dependability. That's a stereotype and a cliche, I know. But there's good reason that's a stereotype and a cliche. It's true - that's why. Maybe those words fit the 2018 German bid as well -- "reliability" and "dependability." Would you agree?

Bach: Yes. I definitely agree. And again this is not something we can just promise. This is something we can guarantee, we can show. We have been organizing in the first three months of this year three world championships in Olympic winter sports plus 12 World Cups. Plus, we have always been a very reliable partner of the respective international federations. This of course would even apply more for our partnership with the IOC. And given, you know, the environment we are enjoying here in Germany, I think the IOC could really trust us and would have a very smooth preparation time for an Olympic Winter Games.

3 Wire: To me, the Number One variable in this race is you. How do you feel about that?

Bach: To me, this I can not see. Of course, I am supporting this bid. And the DOSB, the German Olympic sports confederation, with its 28 million members, has voted twice, unanimously, in favor of the bid, at the beginning, to start it, and now to approve the bid book. And I support this bid wholeheartedly because I think it would be good for Germany and it would be good for winter sports and the Olympic movement. But the difference at the end will be the concept, will be the guarantees, will be the unity we can show here in Germany with the world of politics, with the world of business -- and so there are many, always many factors which have to come together to make a bid successful.

3 Wire: So it's not all about Thomas Bach?

Bach: For sure not. If it would be, we could not succeed.

3 Wire: This is surely not the time, this is not the place, to say, yes, Thomas Bach is going to run for the IOC presidency in 2013 or, no, Thomas Bach is not going to run for the presidency in 2013. What can you say, now, in 2011, about your interests, ambitions, aspirations for the IOC presidency in 2013?

Bach: What I can say is that I was a candidate for re-election as vice president in 2010 with the intention to support the IOC president in his term. This is what I'm doing. I think it would be unfair to the IOC and it would be unfair to the president to start now a discussion about candidatures yes or no. There is so much to do in the Olympic movement that we should concentrate on issues rather than on persons.

3 Wire: One of the interesting things, especially as an American, to be in Europe, and to be in places such as Garmisch, is to feel history, and in this context Olympic history. The Winter Games were here in 1936. To come back here in 2018 would be an interesting return. What would it mean to come back here so many, many years later?

Bach: It's very difficult to compare. It's a different Germany you see here and now. You see here [now] an Olympic bid which is driven by sports and by athletes. At the time, it was a political issue. The Nazis used it -- tried to use it -- for their purposes. It's completely different. There is one thing, however, which has not changed, and that is the enthusiasm of the people for winter sports. They just love winter sports. They practice winter sports themselves. This is why they really can value the athletes' performances and the performances of all the athletes. In one way or the other, the message may be how much the world has changed since then, how much Germany has changed since then and how much winter sport has changed -- but the passion is still there.

3 Wire: You mentioned the [2006] World Cup a few moments ago. There is an argument to be made, and a good one, that in many ways Germany has moved on since 1972, and since the Summer Games. The fact is, though, that the last time the words "Munich" and "Olympic" were in the same sentence was in 1972. There's an enormous symbolism to see those words in the same sentence again. What would it mean symbolically to turn the page, to turn the corner, were Munich to be awarded the [2018] Games -- not only because you'd have Winter Games in a place where the Summer Games were but of course because of what happened here?

Bach: I think it could be a great symbol of conciliation, to see Munich organize peaceful and friendly and open Games after the tragedy of '72. This is I think how many people feel it. They realize that Munich has been struck at the time by the rise of international terrorism -- that this has hurt the Games at the time and the Olympic ideal very much, and they still are upset at how the Olympic ideal could be misused in such a way. The symbol, really, could be that some wounds are healing. You will not forget but you can show to the world that it can be done in a very different, peaceful Olympic way.