AP sources: Bach to hold retreat of IOC board

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LONDON (AP) - New IOC President Thomas Bach will hold a four-day retreat of his policy-making body next month to discuss the future of the Olympics, The Associated Press has learned.

The executive board will gather from Dec. 11-14 at a hotel in the Swiss lakeside resort of Montreux, Olympic officials with knowledge of the decision told the AP. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting hasn't been announced.

The brainstorming sessions are expected to cover a range of issues, including possible changes to the Olympic sports program, a review of the bid city process and a proposed raising of the 70-year age limit for IOC members.

The retreat will follow immediately after the regularly scheduled one-day meeting of the executive board at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Dec. 10.

Regular IOC executive board meetings usually last two or three days and involve reports from various departments and Olympic host city organizers. By keeping the Dec. 10 meeting to just one day, the board can go into more depth and exchange views on all issues in a relaxed atmosphere in Montreux.

The move reflects Bach's determination and urgency to take charge and set his own agenda since being elected president Sept. 10, succeeding Jacques Rogge after 12 years in office.

Bach chaired a closed-door summit of sports leaders at the IOC on Nov. 2 to discuss doping, match-fixing, illegal betting, the sports calendar and other issues.

The 59-year-old German wants a more flexible system for setting the Olympic sports program, an issue that came to prominence after wrestling was stunningly dropped from the 2020 Games lineup last February. The sport was voted back onto the program in September, defeating squash and a combined baseball-softball bid.

During a visit to Japan this week, Bach said the IOC will discuss the possibility of baseball and softball being included in the 2020 Games in Tokyo, something that would require a change in the IOC's rules. During his presidential campaign, Bach said the IOC could lift the current limit on 28 sports by tinkering with the disciplines with the sports.

Bach also has spoken about tweaking the process of bidding for the Olympics, seeking to cut costs and put fewer requirements on potential host cities at the start. Earlier this month, voters in Bach's home country rejected a proposed Munich bid for the 2022 Winter Games, citing financial and environmental concerns.

Also likely to be discussed in Montreux is the IOC's mandatory retirement age of 70 _ a rule in place since 2000 as part of reforms enacted after the Salt Lake City bribery scandal. Bach and most of the five candidates he defeated in the IOC presidential election have said the age limit needs to be reconsidered.

The ban on member visits to bid cities and the IOC's anti-doping strategy are other key issues.

Ideas and recommendations coming out of the Montreux retreat will be put forward to the next formal meeting of the executive board and the full IOC general assembly in February on the eve of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Bach, a former Olympic gold medalist in fencing, has acted swiftly to consolidate his power, traveling around the globe and holding talks with key officials and world leaders.

He has traveled to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin and inspect preparations in Sochi, delivered a speech at the United Nations in New York and attended last week's global anti-doping conference in Johannesburg.

Bach is currently on a tour of Asia, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jingping in Beijing and visited Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers of the 2020 Olympics.

On Thursday, the IOC leader was in South Korea, meeting with President Park Geun-hye and checking on preparations for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Bach will be back in Europe on Friday to attend the general assembly of the European Olympic Committees in Rome. He has a scheduled private audience with Pope Francis and will present him with the Olympic Order, the IOC's highest award, and will also meet with Italian Premier Enrico Letta.


Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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