Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee was awarded an UCAM Honoris Causa Doctorate at the Temple of the Jeronimos Manastery on Monday 23rd March. More than one thousand people were present at the ceremony, including several famous names from polítical, cultural, academic and sporting spheres. The ceremony was presided by Jose Luis Mendoza, president of UCAM who was accompanied by Pedro Antonio Sanchez, Education, Culture and Universities adviser for the Region of Murcia; Alejandro Blanco, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee; Miguel Angel Camara, mayor of Murcia; Josefina Garcia, UCAM rector; Marisol Casado, member of the International Olympic Committee; and Antonio Sanchez Pato, dean of the Faculty of Sport.
The ceremony in which UCAM awaded Thomas Bach with the cap and gown, gloves, and the Book of Wisdom representing the Honoris Causa Doctorate, was accompanied by the symphony orchestra of the Catholic University of Murcia, who played both UCAM's sporting anthem and the internationally renown Olympic music. Several UCAM athletes were present, including kayakers David Cal, Saúl Craviotto and Sete Benavides; Joel González (taekwondo); Marga Crespí (synchronized swimming); and Diego Ruiz (athletics). They were also accompanied by representatives and players of UCAM Murcia Basketball Club, which forms part of the ACB League, andUCAM Murcia Football Club in 2nd division B.
Bach used his speech as an opportunity to thank UCAM for this prestigious recognition and to highlight the work that the university carries out in favor of its athletes and to promote sport.
"You enjoy here an education which goes far beyond sporting and physical activity. You learn the importance and values of sport before promoting them on the field of play, here and around the world. At this University of Sport, you have placed these same values at the top of your teaching objectives. Thus you have become the reference for university sport in Spain”.
For Thomas Bach, the importance of UCAM’s alliance with the Spanish Olympic Committee cannot be undermined. He described it as “an alliance that is still focused on the athletes and their well-being, both on and off the field of play”. The President of the IOC added that the UCAM “does not limit itself to offering sponsorship and scholarships. The university also places paramount importance on the promotion of Olympic values, scientific research and training”. He reminded the audience that the International Olympic Committee remains dedicated to its support of the joint program between UCAM and the Spanish Olympic Committee: ´Sports Higher Education´, aimed at young Iberoamerican athletes with which the IOC, through Olympic Solidarity, is associated”.
As President of the International Olympic Committee, Bach is fully aware of the importance and impact of the Olympic movement, and wishes to see it become a determining factor in building a better future. “Today’s world needs the positive power of sport more than ever. We are living in a fragile world, battered by crisis: political crisis, financial crisis, environmental catastrophes, pandemics, terrorism and war. Society is more fragmented and individualized than at any time in the past.” Thus “the Olympic Movement provides a clear vision of where we are heading and how we can increase the positive impact of sport on society. It is based on the three pillars of sustainability, credibility and youth.”
Jose Luis Mendoza expressed his gratitude to the head of the IOC for his presence and reminded the audience that sport is one of the pillars on which the Catholic University of Murcia is founded. “Our University has a special affiliation to sport because it is something which dwells in the heart of man. We recognise that sport has a positive influence on education, personal relationships and spiritual growth; as well as being an important instrument for doing good and for helping the poor and needy”.
Pedro Antonio Sanchez emphasised the great work that UCAM carries out in all fields, especially that of sport: “Once again we are present at this university for a wonderful event. It is an honour to be here today as witnesses to Thomas Bach being awarded the prestigious title of Doctor Honoris Causa. This is another highlight for UCAM and for the Region of Murcia”.
Bach: “Spain has all the necessary features to host the Olympics”
Following the ceremony, Thomas Bach answered several questions from the press regarding current issues related to the Olympics. Regarding the possibility of Spain putting forward its candidature for the 2024 Olympics, he stated from a neutral standpoint that it would be good news for all: “The Olympic Movement in Spain is gathering great strength. Alejandro Blanco has an exceptional international Olympic reputation. Spain as a country has all the necessary features to host the Olympic games or at least to put forward a strong candidature, as it is a country which is strong in sport, and has many facilities. Nonetheless, this has to be a decision that comes from the country itself. What i can say is that a Spanish candidature would be warmly received by the Committee. Madrid was a very strong contender. But we have the example of Barcelona who presented itself five times before it was finally chosen as host city, and put together a fantastic Olympic Games. The important thing is that Spain has won over many people and it is necessary to recognise their effort in increasing and developing the infrastructure in the host city”.
Another important topic for Bach is doping control, which explains why he signed a convention with the Spanish Olympic Committee to support further investigations against the use of illegal substances. “One of the priorities on the agenda for the 2020 Olympics is to achieve a clean and healthy sport. Thus we will be placing extra emphasis on research against doping. We are thrilled to be putting into practice this project that originated in Spain. The Spanish Olympic Committee took a strong initiative with this programme to protect athletes, and we are certain it will be a success”.
To conclude, he called for sporting institutions to campaign for their necessary autonomy in order to guarantee equal treatment of athletes from all over the world “In sport it is necessary to have complete autonomy because it is the only field which is wholly governed by laws that are global. This allows all athletes to be equal, but we need this independence in order to ensure that this can continue and that all athletes are awarded the same conditions and opportunities. Hence the International Olympic Committee supports all autonomous national committees. We are aware that Alejandro Blanco is carrying out a great job to this respect”.