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Thomas Bach

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Thomas Bach
Bach in 2014
9th President of the International Olympic Committee
Assumed office
10 September 2013
Preceded byJacques Rogge
Personal details
Born (1953-12-29) 29 December 1953 (age 70)
Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany
Alma materUniversity of Würzburg (Dr. iur. utr.)
Sports career
Height171 cm (5 ft 7 in)
Weight65 kg (143 lb)
ClubFencing-Club Tauberbischofsheim[1]
Medal record
Representing  West Germany
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1976 Montréal Foil, team
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1977 Buenos Aires Foil, team
Silver medal – second place 1973 Gothenburg Foil, team
Bronze medal – third place 1979 Melbourne Foil, team

Thomas Bach OLY[2] (born 29 December 1953) is a German lawyer, former foil fencer, and Olympic gold medalist. He has served as the ninth and current president of the International Olympic Committee since 2013, the first-ever Olympic champion to be elected to that position. Bach is also a former German individual foil champion, and former member of the German Olympic Sports Confederation's executive board.

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas Bach was born in Würzburg. He grew up in Tauberbischofsheim, where he lived with his parents until 1977. Bach earned a doctor of law (Dr. iur. utr.) degree in 1983 at the University of Würzburg.[3][4][5] In addition to his native German, he speaks fluent French, English and Spanish.[6]

Fencing career[edit]

Bach is a former foil fencer, who competed for West Germany. In 1971, at 17 years of age, he won the German national junior foil championship, and a bronze medal at the Junior World Fencing Championships in Chicago, Illinois.[7][8]

At the World Fencing Championships he also won a team silver medal in 1973 in Gothenburg, Sweden, a team gold medal in 1977 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a team bronze medal in 1979 in Melbourne. Australia.[9][10] Bach completed his last competitive international match on 26 October 1980 in Shanghai.[11]

He won a foil team gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada.[1] On 11 November 2017, Bach was formally granted the use of the post-nominal letters "OLY".[12]

Nationally, Bach won the 1977 and 1978 German Individual Foil Championships.[9][7] He also won the 1978 European Cup of Champions of foil teams.[9]

DOSB Presidency[edit]

Sign at the house of Thomas Bach, where he lived in 1953–1977, at the Sonnenplatz in Tauberbischofsheim

Bach served as the President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), prior to becoming President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In order to run for IOC Presidency, he resigned as the head of the DOSB on 16 September 2013, having served in that position since 2006. He was replaced by Alfons Hörmann, and remained a member of the DOSB Executive Board. Additionally, he resigned as the head of Ghorfa Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Bach would, however, continue serving as the head of Michael Weinig AG Company, a company in the industrial woodworking machinery industry that has its headquarters in Bach's hometown of Tauberbischofsheim.[13]

In 2012, Bach headed Munich's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.[14] In the host city election, Munich secured 25 votes as South Korea's Pyeongchang was elected as host city with 63 votes.

IOC Presidency[edit]

Like his predecessors Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge, Thomas Bach stays in the Lausanne Palace when he is in Lausanne[15]

On 9 May 2013, Bach confirmed that he would run for President of the International Olympic Committee.[16][17]

2013 IOC presidential election[edit]

Bach was elected to an eight-year term as IOC President at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires on 10 September 2013. He secured 49 votes in the final round of voting, giving him the majority needed to be elected. He succeeded Jacques Rogge, who had served as IOC President from 2001 to 2013.[18] Bach would be eligible to run for a second four-year term at the 134th IOC Session in 2019 until 2025.[19]

Bach's successful election came against five other candidates: Sergey Bubka, Richard Carrión, Ng Ser Miang, Denis Oswald and Wu Ching-Kuo.[19] The result of the election was as follows:

Election of the 9th IOC President[20]
Candidate Round 1[21] Round 2
Germany Thomas Bach 43 49
Ukraine Sergey Bubka 8 4
Puerto Rico Richard Carrión 23 29
Singapore Ng Ser Miang 6 6
Switzerland Denis Oswald 7 5
Chinese Taipei Wu Ching-kuo 6

Bach officially moved into the IOC presidential office at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 17 September 2013, a week after being elected president.[22]

At a meeting of the 137th session of the International Olympic Committee on 10 March 2021, Bach was re-elected to an additional four-year term as President. Bach, 67, was re-elected by a 93–1 vote from 94 valid votes during the session which was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[23] This is Bach's final term as IOC President, as the organization's rules limit the president's term to eight years with one renewal of four years.[24]

Olympic Agenda 2020[edit]

Following his election as IOC President, Bach indicated his desire to change the Olympic bidding process and make sustainable development a priority. He stated that the current bidding process "asks too much, too early".[25] These forty proposed reforms became known as Olympic Agenda 2020; they were all unanimously approved at the 127th IOC Session in Monaco.

Olympic host city elections[edit]

Bach and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 6 August 2016

The first bidding process over which Thomas Bach presided was for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Bids were due in November 2013, and the host city, Beijing, was elected to host the 2022 Winter Olympics at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in July 2015. Lausanne was elected to host the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics during that same session.

During the bidding process for the 2024 Summer Olympics in 2017, President Bach proposed a joint awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics after several bidders withdrew. The IOC later approved a plan to award the 2024 Olympics to Paris, with Los Angeles securing the right to host the 2028 Olympics. President Bach presided over the electoral procedures at the 131st IOC Session in Lima, Peru. Both cities were unanimously elected.

Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo were elected to host the 2026 Winter Olympics at the 134th IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2019.

Controversies and criticism[edit]

Consultancy contract for Siemens[edit]

Thomas Bach came under criticism when it became known in April 2008 that he had a consulting contract with Siemens from the turn of the millennium, which was remunerated with 400,000 Euros in 2008 and provided for additional expenses of 5,000 Euros per day. Bach is said to have organized invitations from the Arab world for the Siemens Group. Siemens supervisory board members criticized that with such high fees, additional daily payment was "absolutely unusual." They also criticized a possible conflict of interest, because Siemens profited from contracts related to sports, and overlaps between his professional activities and his work as a sports official.[26][27][28]

President of the Ghorfa[edit]

Bach has been criticized for his work as president of Ghorfa Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ghorfa). Ghorfa legalizes trade documents of companies that want to export to Arab countries. It does so by certifying that the products do not contain parts from Israel. The practice was introduced in the 1970s as part of the Arab League boycott of Israel.[29][30]

Controversies surrounding Russia[edit]

Thomas Bach and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

One of the biggest challenges Bach has been faced with as IOC President is having to deal with Russia's state-sponsored doping scandal. This program did begin prior to his presidency, but nonetheless it has become a pressing issue during his tenure. It had been discovered that Russia tampered with the anti-doping lab at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and that the government had overseen mass doping among the Russian Olympic athletes for many years.[31][32] Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Bach's call to "respect the rules and stay clean" was widely interpreted as a reference to the Russian scandal.[33] Bach was harshly criticized for what many see as turning a blind eye to Russia's state-sponsored Olympic doping effort. Jim Walden, attorney for whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, called Bach's move to reinstate the Russian Olympic Committee following the 2018 Winter Olympics, despite the failed drug tests during the Games, "weakness in the face of evil".[34]

There was wide speculation that Vladimir Putin's support was a key factor in Thomas Bach's election as IOC president in September 2013.[35] It was reported that Putin had congratulated Bach by phone only a few minutes after his election.[36] These facts might have raised a few eyebrows, but can be explained by Russia's interests as hosts of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Bach has been criticized by German media for his perceived friendliness towards Russia.[37] He was even seen as instrumental in lifting the World Anti-Doping Agency's ban on Russian athletes in 2018.[38] Bach has also expressed support for participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Summer Olympics, despite the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Responding to opposition from several nation states, he said that it should not be up to national governments to decide who gets to participate in international sporting tournaments.[39] On 22 March 2023, Bach further reiterated his support for reinstating Russian and Belarusian athletes, expressing opposition to political influence on sports and "any suggestion that Russians should be treated as if they have collective guilt".[40]

In October 2023, the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, which had previously sent independent Russian athletes to the Olympic Games, due to violations of the Olympic Charter – specifically, for incorporating Ukrainian sporting bodies from annexed Ukrainian territory into the Russian body, and so violating the integrity of the Ukraine Olympic Committee.[41] Russia challenged this in the Court of Arbitration for Sport; in February 2024 the appeal was declined. This worsened tensions between the IOC and ROC, with Thomas Bach saying in March 2024 that Russia only has itself to blame.[42]

Postponement of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics[edit]

On 5 March 2020, Bloomberg News reported that Bach had stated "Neither the word 'cancellation' nor the word 'postponement' were even mentioned" regarding the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan amidst COVID-19 pandemic at the IOC's executive board meeting the previous day.[43] On 22 March, the IOC announced that within four weeks a decision would be made on whether Tokyo 2020 is going to be staged as planned or whether a postponement is necessary.[44][45][46] Later that month, the IOC reversed the course and rescheduled the 2020 Games, which held from 23 July to 8 August 2021.[47]

Meanwhile, Bach was in Tokyo in July 2021 to promote a safe launch of the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, he referred to Japanese people as "Chinese", triggering a backlash on social media.[48] Bach's visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was opposed by survivor groups, some of which accused Bach of using the historic place politically to "justify holding of the Olympics by force under the pandemic".[49][50] Furthermore, Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments had to cover some 3.79 million yen (roughly $34,000) in security costs for Bach after the IOC refused to pay.[51] As The Washington Post had called Bach "Von Ripper-off", the translated term "Bottakuri danshaku (ぼったくり男爵)" became his nickname, and made the top 10 in 2021's Buzzwords of the Year in Japan.[52][53][54]

Peng Shuai and 2022 Winter Olympics[edit]

Later in 2021, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai was suspected have been forcibly disappeared after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a top official of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), of sexual assault. Following international outcry, the CCP offered an apparent "proof-of-life" video. Bach served as an interviewer in the video, in which Peng stated that she was safe and well. Zhang and Bach had met and worked together on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.[55][56][57][58] After the interview, Global Athlete, an athlete advocacy group, said the IOC had demonstrated "an abhorrent indifference to sexual violence and the well-being of female athletes".[59] Peng attended several events at the 2022 Winter Olympics and had a meeting with Bach and other IOC officials, where she announced her intention to travel to Europe after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.[60]

Israel at the 2024 Summer Olympics[edit]

The participation of Israel at the 2024 Summer Olympics prompted calls from left-wing French lawmakers,[61] Palestinian,[62] and other global sports organizations for sanctions against Israel and to prevent its participation due to the impact of the Israel–Hamas war on Palestinian athletes and sports facilities,[63][64] but Bach confirmed this was never an issue for the IOC and cautioned athletes against boycotts and discrimination.[65] In November 2023, Russia accused the IOC of having double standards by not sanctioning Israel due to its military actions in Gaza and occupation of Palestine, as Palestine is also an IOC member.[66][67]

Olga Kharlan incident and 2024 Summer Olympics[edit]

Thomas Bach and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, 3 July 2022

Since 1 July 2020 (and reconfirmed by FIE public notice in September 2020 and in January 2021), by public written notice the FIE had replaced its previous handshake requirement with a "salute" by the opposing fencers, and written in its public notice that handshakes were "suspended until further notice."[68][69][70][71][72] Nevertheless, in July 2023 when Ukrainian four-time world fencing individual sabre champion Olga Kharlan was disqualified at the World Fencing Championships by the Fédération Internationale d'Escrime for not shaking the hand of her defeated Russian opponent, though Kharlan instead offered a tapping of blades in acknowledgement, Bach stepped in the next day.[73][74] As President of the IOC, he sent a letter to Kharlan in which he expressed empathy for her, and wrote that in light of the situation she was being guaranteed a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics.[75][76] He wrote further: "as a fellow fencer, it is impossible for me to imagine how you feel at this moment. The war against your country, the suffering of the people in Ukraine, the uncertainty around your participation at the Fencing World Championships ... and then the events which unfolded yesterday - all this is a roller coaster of emotions and feelings. It is admirable how you are managing this incredibly difficult situation, and I would like to express my full support to you. Rest assured that the IOC will continue to stand in full solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community of Ukraine."[77]

Other issues[edit]

Bach was criticised by journalist Marina Hyde in The Guardian for comparing the IOC positively to FIFA with regard to corruption.[78] Also in The Guardian, Owen Gibson accused Bach of hypocrisy for agreeing to be involved with the 2015 European Games hosted in Azerbaijan.[79] Twenty-nine journalists signed an open letter to Bach calling for him to condemn Azerbaijan's jailing of dissenters and attacks on freedom of expression.[80]

In 2017, Bach faced a backlash for his decision to rename synchronized swimming as artistic swimming. The name change spurred a petition signed by over 11,000 people from 88 countries with one signitary declaring 'Artistic Swimming' sounds like something society ladies did with their bosom friends at garden parties or after tea in the early 20th century.[81]


State honours[edit]

Honorary doctorates[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

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  4. ^ "Vita Thomas Bach : Olympiasieger im Fechten, DOSB-Präsident" (PDF). Dosb.de. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Rechtsanwalt Dr. iur. utr. Peter Zimmermann – About me – Dr. iur. utr". Zimm-recht.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2021. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Lord of the Rings: new IOC chief Thomas Bach | Sports | DW.COM | 10 September 2013". Dw.de. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b "One for all and all for one: Thomas Bach reflects on a golden moment at Montreal 1976"
  8. ^ "The Biographies o f all IOC Members"
  9. ^ a b c "Thomas Bach," Olympics.com.
  10. ^ Fechten – Weltmeisterschaften (Herren – Florett). sport-komplett.de
  11. ^ 袁虹衡; 李远飞 (10 October 2018). "奥运冠军吴静钰和国际奥委会主席巴赫及夫人 在青奥会上"家人团聚"" (in Chinese). 京报体育. Archived from the original on 28 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022. 最终侯琨发现了这本详细记录当年巴赫主席作为前西德运动员,随击剑队来华访问的中文资料,并与巴赫主席确认,他最后一场比赛的时间为1980年10月26日,地点在上海
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  21. ^ Ser Miang Ng won round one tie-break vote 56–36 against Ching-kuo Wu.
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  30. ^ "Ein kühler Netzwerker". www.fr.de (in German). 19 January 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
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  34. ^ Young, Henry. "Russian Olympic Committee's reinstatement is 'weakness in the face of evil', says lawyer". CNN. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
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  36. ^ "New IOC president Bach heads to Sochi". The Gleaner. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2023.
  37. ^ Bouwman, Bertus (31 March 2014). "Zeven Duitse vrienden van Poetin: van Siemens-topman Kaeser tot Helmut Schmidt" [Seven German friends of Putin: From Siemens manager Kaeser to Helmut Schmidt]. Duitslandnieuws.
  38. ^ Mittman, Ralf. "Dopingexperten sehen IOC-Boss Thomas Bach als treibende Kraft, dass die Welt-Antidoping-Agentur den Bann gegen Russland aufgehoben hat" [Doping experts see IOC Boss Thomas Bach as the leader of the effort that made WADA lift the ban on Russia]. Südkurier. Retrieved 1 April 2023.
  39. ^ Henley, Jon (12 February 2023). "Olympics head rejects Zelenskiy call to ban Russian athletes from Paris Games". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 13 February 2023. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  40. ^ "IOC's Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest". AP News. 22 March 2023.
  41. ^ Ingle, Sean (12 October 2023). "Russia's Olympic Committee suspended by IOC for violations against Ukraine". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 March 2024.
  42. ^ Ingle, Sean (6 March 2024). "IOC president hits out at Russia's 'blatant violation' of Olympic charter". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 March 2024.
  43. ^ Zimmerman, Max (5 March 2020). "IOC President Reaffirms Commitment to Tokyo Olympics". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  44. ^ tagesschau.de. "Olympische Spiele: Das IOC will in vier Wochen entscheiden". tagesschau.de (in German). Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  45. ^ "Coronavirus: Olympic doubts grow as Canada withdraws athletes". BBC News. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  46. ^ Vera, Amir; Martin, Jill (23 March 2020). "Canada and Australia will not send athletes to Tokyo Olympics". edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  47. ^ "IOC, IPC, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Announce New Dates for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020". olympic.org. 30 March 2020. Archived from the original on 30 March 2020. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  48. ^ McCurry, Justin (13 July 2021). "Olympics chief mixes up Japanese and Chinese at Tokyo Games presser". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  49. ^ "IOC chief Bach to visit Hiroshima despite protests". Kyodo News. 13 July 2021. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  50. ^ McCurry, Justin (15 July 2021). "Olympics chief accused of insulting Hiroshima survivors with visit to atomic bombing site". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  51. ^ "Hiroshima Pref., city to cover Bach visit security fees after organizing committee refuses". The Mainichi. 14 August 2021. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  52. ^ Sally Jenkins (5 May 2021). "Japan should cut its losses and tell the IOC to take its Olympic pillage somewhere else". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  53. ^ Torsten Weber (7 July 2021). "Catchword Bottakuri Danshaku". Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien (DIJ). Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  54. ^ "Buzzwords in Japan 2021: Ohtani and Tokyo Olympics loomed large". The Japan Times. 1 December 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  55. ^ "In video call, Chinese tennis player Peng Shaui says she is safe". Al Jazeera. 21 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  56. ^ Carpenter, Les (21 November 2021). "IOC says President Thomas Bach had video call with missing tennis player Peng Shuai". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  57. ^ Gan, Nectar (21 November 2021). "Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has finally appeared in public. But here's why the worries aren't going away". CNN. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  58. ^ "Chinese vice premier meets IOC president". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 24 November 2021. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  59. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross; Karaian, Jason; Kessler, Sarah; Gandel, Stephen; de la Merced, Michael J.; Hirsch, Lauren; Livni, Ephrat (23 November 2021). "Will Olympics Sponsors Face Blowback Over Peng Shuai?". New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  60. ^ Busbee, Jay (7 February 2022). "Peng Shuai, IOC downplay concerns about tennis player's disappearance after meeting in Beijing". yahoo! sports. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  61. ^ Picazo, Raul Daffunchio (24 February 2024). "French lawmakers call on Olympic committee to sanction Israel". insidethegames.biz.
  62. ^ "More than 300 Palestinian sports clubs call for Israel Olympic Games ban". Al Jazeera. 18 January 2024.
  63. ^ Zirin, Dave (10 January 2024). "Will the IOC Do Anything About the Killing of Palestinian Athletes?". The Nation.
  64. ^ Zidan, Karim (18 January 2024). "The case for sports sanctions against Israel". The Guardian.
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  66. ^ Stynes, Trevor (6 November 2023). Radnedge, Christian (ed.). "CAS registers Russian appeal against Olympic membership suspension". Reuters. Archived from the original on 13 November 2023.
  67. ^ Mann, Brian (8 November 2023). "Russia says International Olympic Committee is giving Israel a pass on Gaza". NPR. Archived from the original on 30 December 2023.
  68. ^ Jomantas, Nicole (6 March 2020). "Handshaking Rule Suspended at USA Fencing Events". USA Fencing.
  69. ^ Hopkins, Amanda (12 March 2020). "Oceania U20s and Handshaking Rule". Fencing New Zealand.
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  74. ^ Aadi Nair (27 July 2023). "Ukrainian fencer disqualified from world championships for refusing handshake with Russian opponent; Olga Kharlan offered to touch blades after beating Anna Smirnova, who then staged a sit-down protest at the handshake refusal". The Independent.
  75. ^ "Ukrainian fencer won't shake hands with Russian at world championships, gets Olympic spot". USA TODAY.
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    "Russia-Ukraine conflict: Fencer Olga Kharlan ban lifted as she is handed Olympic spot". BBC Sport. 28 July 2023. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
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  83. ^ "President Andrzej Duda and president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach during the award ceremony of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, in Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, 15 November 2021". Shutterstock. 15 November 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  84. ^ Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 22 марта 2014 года № 166 «О награждении государственными наградами Российской Федерации иностранных граждан» Archived 2014-03-26 at the Wayback Machine
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External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Manfred von Richthofen (Olympic official)
as President of the Deutscher Sportbund
President of the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund
Succeeded by
Preceded byas President of the Nationales
Olympisches Komitee für Deutschland
Preceded by President of the International Olympic Committee