ST. PETERSURG, Russia (AP) — Pole vault great Sergei Bubka entered the crowded IOC presidential race Tuesday, citing his youthful energy and experience as an Olympic champion as key ingredients in his bid for the top job.
The 49-year-old Ukrainian declared his candidacy to succeed Jacques Rogge, who steps down in September after 12 years as head of the International Olympic Committee.
Bubka became the sixth, and likely final, contender in the campaign, completing a record field for the IOC presidency. The deadline for declarations is June 6, but no other members are expected to come forward.
As a 1988 Olympic gold medalist, six-time world champion and world-record holder who came into the IOC as a representative of the athletes, Bubka presents a different kind of candidate.
"I always dreamed to give something back," he said at a news conference. "I always dreamed to be with the international movement. ... This is my life. I have passion. I have drive. I have energy to dedicate to the movement which gave me basically everything I have.
"Sport is in my life," he said. "Sport is in my genes."
Bubka joined a group of candidates that includes IOC vice presidents Thomas Bach of Germany and Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, amateur boxing association chief C.K. Wu of Taiwan, and international rowing federation head Denis Oswald of Switzerland.
The election will be held Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Bubka is by far the youngest candidate in the race, 10 years younger than the 59-year-old Bach. Wu and Oswald are the oldest, both 66.
Bach, a former Olympic fencer, has been seen as the front-runner. But the presence of six contenders in the field suggests there is no consensus favorite, and the votes could be split.
Bubka announced his candidacy during the SportAccord Convention and one day before the start of IOC executive board meetings. St. Petersburg was a symbolic choice; it was in this city 30 years ago that Bubka first qualified for the world track and field championships. He went on to win the first of his six consecutive world championships in Helsinki in 1983.
In a letter to IOC members, Bubka listed his background as an athlete, businessman and sports administrator.
"I am confident that all of these experiences give me a strong platform to work together with you to lead our great organization through the next exciting, yet challenging, chapter," he said.
Bubka served as the athletes' member on the policymaking IOC executive board from 2000-08. He was elected a full-time IOC member in 2008 and has served on several commissions.
Bubka has also been a vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations since 2007. He and Sebastian Coe have been considered the main contenders to succeed IAAF President Lamine Diack in 2015.
"I am here because of athletics," Bubka said. "Athletics, and the Olympic movement, this is in my heart. This is my life, my passion. And of course today, today we have the election for IOC presidency. And I think this is (a) good time to run for IOC president."
Bubka appeared in four Olympics from 1988 to 2000, winning the pole vault gold medal for the former Soviet Union at the 1988 Games in Seoul. He failed to clear any height at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics and withdrew with an injury before competing in 1996.
Bubka set a total of 35 world records — indoors and out — during his career. He still holds the outdoor (20 feet, 1¾ inches, set in 1994) and indoor (20-2¼, set in 1993) marks in the event.
Like the other candidates, Bubka spoke of the need to engage with young people and fight doping, irregular betting, match-fixing and youth obesity. He said he would present his full manifesto to the members in "due course."
Bubka supported Rogge's recent proposal for the next president to be paid a salary, a break from IOC tradition where the presidency is an unpaid volunteer position. Bubka said he backed the idea because the presidency is a full-time job. But if elected, he said, he would donate his salary to charity, saying he is well-off enough to go without pay. The president's travel and other expenses are covered by the IOC.
"The president should be paid, because when he's paid, he's responsible," Bubka said.
Bubka said he had an open mind on one of the key issues for IOC members — whether to reinstate their right to visit cities bidding for the Olympics. The visits were banned in 2000 after the Salt Lake City scandal, which exposed improper payments and gifts to IOC members.
"Times are changing rapidly," Bubka said. "If the members feel it is necessary, we can review the situation."
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