Sergey Bubka is still the world record holder in the pole vault at 20 feet, 1-¾ inches, and now he wants to lift himself even higher. He is hoping to be elected the new president of the International Olympic Committee when the IOC votes on the replacement for Jacques Rogge on Monday.
"It's my life," Bubka said of the Olympic movement. "I’m in my position because of sport. I would like to give back to sport. I’ve dedicated my life to sport. I’m very pleased and happy and proud that I’m a member of the IOC."
If anyone can understand the full Olympic experience, it's Bubka, who has experienced just about everything an Olympic athlete ever could. Bubka was the victim of a country's boycott (1984). He competed in the Olympics for three different teams -- the Soviet Union in 1988, the Unified Team in 1992 after the breakup of the Soviet empire and finally for his native Ukraine in 1996 and 2000. He won a gold medal. He suffered disappointing defeats.
Currently the president of Ukraine’s Olympic Committee, Bubka stressed he wants to get more youth back playing actual sports on the athletic field rather than just playing virtual sports.
"Youth are not willing enough to do sports," he said. "We see lots of diabetes in kids today. We see kids playing sports in front of a computer screen. We need to bring back the value of physical sport. Make it a priority in school and youth systems. Now is the time to invest in the future and promote the youngsters."
The best ways to reach out to younger fans, he says, is by adding sports popular with those fans and using social media to bring them back. Bubka wants to use social media to spread the word about the Olympics, the importance of sports for health and provide coaching tips and video. "In this way, it would provide the possibility to embrace them and engage them all over the world and bring them with us."
Bubka says Rogge and predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch left a strong legacy and that the Olympics are in very healthy condition. He would like to trim the costs of the Olympics and keep the number of participating athletes around 10,500, which he says would open up hosting the Games to other parts of the world.
At 49, Bubka is the youngest and the most famous of the six candidates. The others are former German fencer Thomas Bach, Swiss rower Denis Oswald, Puerto Rico’s Ricardo Carrion, Singapore’s Ng Ser Miang and Taiwan’s Wu Ching-Kuo.
"The value of the Games is really strong and successful," Bubka said. And he says he can help make it even stronger.