Skip to main content

Bubka: Olympics can save a generation

updated 5:20 AM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
Former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka is running to be president of the International Olympic Committee.
Former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka is running to be president of the International Olympic Committee.
  • Legendary pole vaulter Sergei Bubka says the Olympics can save a generation
  • Bubka is bidding to become International Olympic Committee president
  • He says sport can help children away from developing health problems
  • Bubka also says Olympic sport must build on equality of London 2012

(CNN) -- The Olympics must use its global reach and immense popularity to help save a generation.

That's the mantra from one of the men bidding to become to the next president of the International Olympic Committee -- Sergei Bubka.

The legendary Ukrainian pole vaulter, who won Olympic gold and broke the world record 35 times, says sport must act now to pluck today's youth from the clutches of health problems.

"We need to save the generation," Bubka told CNN World Sport ahead of the start of the World Athletics Championships in Russia on Saturday. "We need to bring them to sport.

Read: Gay, Powell test positive for banned substances

"Today they have so many different interests. They have so many distractions, and we see a lot of health problems: obesity, diabetes.

More to Brazilian economy than sports
Gabby Douglas: I've made big sacrifices
Gay athletes stand up to Russia

"And we need to encourage them, not just to play sport in front of the TV, to use social media computers. We need to use this to engage them to sport, to make their lives better.

"When we look to the age of (our) sport audience it's around 50 years old; it means we need to work in this direction."

Bubka's passion is clear, as is his conviction that the outgoing president Jacques Rogge -- who relinquishes his role in September -- has done much to encourage youth participation in sport.

The Youth Olympics, which features participants aged between 14 and 18, debuted in 2010 and is now an established part of the calendar.

A key part of Bubka's manifesto is using modern methods to promote sport among the younger generation.

"We must go to the modern way, to use social media, to engage society, to engage the youth, to bring them with us to be active sportsmen," he said.

"This is a very important, key moment. This is a time not to lose a generation and President Rogge is leaving a fantastic legacy, and financially we are very healthy.

"It's now time to invest, to invest in the future, to integrate the movement to different parts of society. To change the life of the youths, and of course to continue to build a successful Olympic movement for the future."

To this end, Bubka acknowledges the huge costs involved in staging the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet provide a significant challenge for most modern hosts.

This is a very important, key moment. This is a time not to lose a generation
Sergei Bubka

London's eventual spend was an estimated £9 billion ($13.9 billion) with the next host, Rio de Janeiro, setting aside $2.45 billion for its organizing committee and a further $10 billion to be spent by the government on infrastructure, according to its official website.

Bubka says it is vital to try and drive down costs so that the Games don't become an event that is out of reach for countries in poorer parts of the world.

"Of course the cost of the Games today and for tomorrow, for the future it will be prohibitive," he said. "We need to look not to exaggerate, not to expand the Games when it's become really heavy.

"For that we try to control the size of the Games, we try to control the cost of the Games to make them cheaper, and more possibility for different parts of the world to get the opportunity to host the Games and promote the values in different parts of the world.

"It's a very important issue and it will be one of the priorities for the movement."

Another priority is to stamp out cheating in all its forms. Athletics has been tainted by a string of doping scandals in recent weeks.

Usain Bolt: I try to clear my mind
'Unbeatable' sprinter: How I stay on top
Usain Bolt channels inner Bob Marley

Former world champion Tyson Gay, from the United States, and Jamaica's Asafa Powell tested positive for banned substances in July, along with another Jamaican sprinter -- Sherone Simpson.

This on the back of a failed test due to a banned diuretic from Jamaican Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who will also likely miss the world championships in Moscow depending on the outcome of her case.

Bubka is unequivocal in his stance.

"Regarding doping, of course it's a very sad, and very negative example," he said. "And in some cases we can understand it.

"The system, which is developing, and also the role of the international federation, of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is getting stronger and stronger. I can see this positive trend.

"We eliminate the cheaters. We protect the honest athletes. We will not keep any excuse to anyone. This is a very important issue."

In the wake of those glut of positive tests from his country, six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt was quick to declare himself clean.

And Bubka says the fastest man alive sets a perfect example for others to follow. "Usain Bolt is an amazing athlete, it's unbelievable talent," he said.

"For myself, I first saw him compete in 2002 in Junior World Championships and already at that time I realized this is a future great, great champion.

"And of course for sport in general, and of course for athletics, he's very, very respected, and a very big champion and star. This is a really good model to promote sport and get used to follow good example."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:38 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Click through our gallery of the most dramatic moments from the world of sport.
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
updated 12:04 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Second-tier French side Clermont Foot appoint Helena Costa -- the country's first ever professional female coach of a male team.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
The 2002 bomb attacks in Bali had many victims -- including a touring rugby team from Hong Kong.
Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
updated 6:25 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.