With just more two months before the election, the race to become the next International Olympic Committee president came into sharp focus Thursday with the contenders taking their case directly to the voters.
The candidates each made 15-minute presentations to the general assembly, the first time such campaign speeches have been held in an IOC presidential race.
IOC President Jacques Rogge is leaving after 12 years in office. His successor will be elected by secret ballot on Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With more than 80 IOC members in the hall, Thursday’s presentations were made behind closed doors and no questions were allowed.
When it was over, the most visibly emotional candidate was Richard Carrion, of Puerto Rico, whose eyes welled up as he talked about the experience.
“I said everything that was in my heart,” he said, nearly choking up. “This was a chat with my colleagues. It was extremely emotional, extremely moving for me.”
Also speaking were IOC Vice Presidents Thomas Bach, of Germany; and Ng Ser Miang, of Singapore; executive board members Sergei Bubka, of Ukraine; and C.K. Wu, of Taiwan; and former board member Denis Oswald, of Switzerland.
Members said Carrion made a powerful impact and that Bach, long considered the front-runner, also put in a strong performance.
Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said the presentations will help members make up their minds.
“It tends to confirm a rough order,” he said. “You think, ‘How would this person look standing up in front of the world representing the organization?’ It’s a helpful exercise. It’s far better than, ‘Let’s have a coffee.’ This is a kind of a platform.”
Carrion gave his speech without notes or PowerPoint presentation.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t practice it two or three times,” he said. “But I knew what I wanted to say. The gods were favorable today. It felt good. I had said it 20 times, and it just came out. I think they liked it. I liked the reaction.”
The 60-year-old Carrion is chairman of the finance commission, and he negotiated the record $4.38 billion U.S. TV rights deal with NBC through 2020.
Bach, a 59-year-old German lawyer and former Olympic fencing gold medalist, has served at the top levels of the IOC for years. He leads most of the IOC’s investigations into doping cases and heads the German Olympic Sports Confederation.
Ng, a 64-year-old diplomat and businessman, chaired the organizing committee for the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and is viewed as a strong contender from Asia.
Oswald, a 66-year-old lawyer and president of the international rowing federation, headed the IOC coordination commissions for the Athens and London Olympics. He said Thursday’s presentation was a new challenge.
Wu, head of the international amateur boxing association, said, if elected, he would propose that all six candidates meet and put their proposals together into a “master plan.”
Bubka, the former pole vault champion from Ukraine, is the youngest candidate at 49. He proposes the creation of several councils that would help advise the IOC on key issues.