Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

My insidethegames colleague Liam Morgan recounted a small but telling detail about the final afternoon of Patrick Baumann’s life.

On Saturday, October 13 last year, while attending the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Liam had been seeking information for a column about the remuneration given to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and whether it was justifiable.

"One of those I contacted for the article was Patrick Baumann," he wrote. "In typical fashion, he responded with a concise yet well thought-out comment in an email on Saturday afternoon.

"After I asked for a point of clarification, another email from Baumann containing a solitary thumbs-up emoticon dropped into my inbox at around 4pm the same day.

"A few hours later, the Swiss official died in hospital after suffering a heart attack on the Urban Park here. He was 51."

Baumann, one of the most well-travelled members of the Olympic Movement, was already a hugely busy man in the Argentinian capital, but he had accepted an extra invitation to be the IOC face at a demonstration of sport climbing.

"Many thought this encapsulated his personality and character perfectly," Liam added. "Despite being rushed off his feet with meeting after meeting, and after catching up with a vast spectrum of people connected to his various roles, he simply could not say no."

At the time of his death, this Basel-born former basketball player and referee, who held a law degree from the University of Lausanne and two business Master's degrees from the Universities of Lyon and Chicago, was President of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF).

Patrick Baumann tragically passed away last October ©Getty Images
Patrick Baumann tragically passed away last October ©Getty Images

And that was only the start of it.

As an IOC member, he had become chair for the Los Angeles 2028 Coordination Commission having served as chair of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the 2024 and 2028 Games.

He was President of the Winter Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee for Lausanne 2020.

He sat on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee.

He was a Council member of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

And he remained secretary general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), whose fortunes he had boosted by pioneering the introduction of 3x3 basketball, played informally on a half court with only one basket, to the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games in SIngapore.

Partly as a result of the new format’s success there, the IOC Executive Board agreed in 2017 to introduce it to the Olympics, and it will make its debut next year at Tokyo 2020. It will form a tangible legacy of Baumann’s vision and energy.

In April last year, Baumann told the then insidethegames senior chief reporter Nick Butler: "Basketball is still my main priority. It’s always good to get back home to FIBA and get into my office and, when I do, one of my managers, who has been there 24 years, says, ‘Oh finally, you are back…’

"It’s hard, it takes a bit longer than a normal eight hours. You go home, you have dinner, you see your family and put them to bed and then you go back to your computer and start typing and think, 'Oh today I didn’t do Lausanne 2020 so let me go back to that'. You have to be a little more efficient in organising and sometimes people have to ask you twice."

Patrick Baumann had numerous jobs in the sporting world ©Getty Images
Patrick Baumann had numerous jobs in the sporting world ©Getty Images

One of the common themes of the tributes that were paid to Baumann in the weeks after his death was his capacity, despite his myriad demands and responsibilities, to attend to particular and personal requests.

As my colleague’s anecdote makes clear, Baumann was the embodiment of the old saying – if you want something done, ask a busy man.

But there was a warmth about him that was unusual.

The last time I saw Baumann was at the end of the WADA Executive Committee meeting in Paris in September 2017.

All morning, and for most of the afternoon, members of the Committee had sat 10 floors up in the Pullman Tour Eiffel Hotel with the iconic French construction looming huge in their picture-window view.

After hours of concentrating on the ever-growing nexus of problems with which WADA has to deal – the pressing need for expanded future funding, the vexing and divisive Russian doping situation, the state of the Paris anti-doping lab, the plans to re-shape next year’s list of banned substances – the assembled representatives exited their scenic cell with a tangible sense of relief.

As taxis were summoned, Baumann was among those dawdling and chatting, picking at the snacks laid out on the edges of the ante-room or judiciously pouring themselves glasses of sparkling water.

He was in a state of high good humour and his comments to his companions were full of a joshing playfulness. He seemed like someone at the top of his game.

In that same month my colleague David Owen wrote a long evaluation that ended with the words "keep your eye on Patrick Baumann".

He was already being spoken of as a man perhaps capable of rising to the very top of the Olympic Movement.

Tributes poured in for Patrick Baumann following his untimely death ©Getty Images
Tributes poured in for Patrick Baumann following his untimely death ©Getty Images

In the wake of Baumann’s untimely death, David reflected on how as President of GAISF, Baumann had recovered relations with the IOC in the wake of the infamous bust-up at the 2015 SportAccord meeting in Sochi between Bach and the then SportAccord President Marius Vizer, who dropped the following fruitful questions into an abyss of discomfiture: "Why invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Opening and Closing ceremonies, while millions of athletes live in hunger and they don't stand a chance in sport due to the lack of proper conditions? 

"If indeed the 'IOC distributes $3.25 million (£2.5 million/€2.9 million) a day, every day of the year, for the development of sport worldwide’, why do millions of athletes suffer and cannot enjoy or reach performances in sport?"

As history records, Vizer’s boldness mobilised urgent support to the IOC cause and he soon left his position, leaving an organisation with its status open to question. Some will feel his own question has still not been satisfactorily answered – although that is part of a wider debate.

What is not at issue is that urgent work was required to bring SportAccord back into the fold – work that Baumann, as President, oversaw – including the rebranding to GAISF, as David attested.

"Thinking of the Global Association of International Sports Federations alone, there was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the IOC, which salvaged a meaningful role for GAISF from the wreckage of the Bach-Vizer showdown, the partnership agreement with the Association of National Olympic Committees on the future of the World Beach Games and, in a concrete example of service provision to sports, the launch of the new sport digital ecosystem," he said.

"He was careful in all of this not to offend the IOC: the MoU included agreement to fold GAISF’s anti-doping unit into the new International – or Independent, as it was then – Testing Agency; the ANOC partnership notes that in principle no Olympic events will be included in future Beach Games.

"Indeed, throughout his period of rising prominence, I cannot recall him once disagreeing, publicly at least, with IOC President Thomas Bach.

"Evidently he knew what side his bread was buttered and was prepared to work within whatever limitations that might impose.

“But equally he made the most of what room for manoeuvre he judged available to him: the MoU secured GAISF’s mandate over the SportAccord Convention and its right to develop and organise a full gamut of multi-sport Games – not a bad outcome when many were doubting the body’s very survival…

"The sport with which he is most closely associated – basketball – has been at the forefront of efforts to keep screen-oriented, city-based teenagers active, notably through rapid development of the 3x3 format.

"Baumann, then, was a details man, quietly oiling the wheels of the often cumbersome administrative machinery that enables international sport to happen."

Patrick Baumann helped repair relations between GAISF and the IOC ©GAISF
Patrick Baumann helped repair relations between GAISF and the IOC ©GAISF

On the subject of relations between the GAISF and the IOC, Baumann quipped to Nick: "My son, my daughter, they disagree with me all the time, but they are still in the house."

Among the most obvious fruits of the GAISF’s new-found accord with the IOC was the Esports Forum the two bodies jointly hosted at Lausanne’s Olympic Museum last July.

This Esports Forum – rightly or wrongly – saw esports take another step on the path towards possible Olympic inclusion when the IOC and GAISF agreed to establish a liaison group on the subject, with the topic being placed on the agenda for the Olympic Summit.

Bach admitted that gaming featuring at the Olympics was not likely during his time as IOC President, due to end in 2025, but claimed that they had taken the "first step of a long journey" towards esports becoming part of the Games.

"We are at the beginning," the German said. 

Baumann was clearly energised by the prospect of a possible mutually beneficial arrangement, but he urged caution, telling insidethegames it was "too early" to talk about esports at the Olympics.

"We will see more and more involvement in this area but esports have been demonstrated at the Olympics already," he said. "From there, where it goes is too early to decide.

"There are a few red lines yes but we will have to see. Beyond that, let’s see which is the best way of coming together."

Patrick Baumann was an enthusiastic supporter of esports ©IOC
Patrick Baumann was an enthusiastic supporter of esports ©IOC

It was a more diplomatic utterance than the one he had uncharacteristically made to insidethegames earlier that week in which he asserted that esports players are "as fit as athletes who compete at World Championships or Olympic Games".

As President of GAISF Baumann would have been a prominent figure at the International Federations’ Forum, which was held in Lausanne on November 5 last year.

There, tributes were paid by Bach and the ASOIF President, Francesco Ricci Bitti.

"You can feel the void he is leaving," Bach told insidethegames following the opening of the Forum.

"He was a central figure as the President of GAISF and all of his initiatives which were being taken in cooperation with us.

"Like the Esports Forum and others.

"I think everybody in the room today felt this void.

"This is why everyone made a true homage to him."

Three days earlier there had been a memorial service for Baumann in Lausanne, where Bach and his FIBA counterpart Horacio Muratore were among those joining the official’s family at Notre-Dame cathedral. Again, the sense of his absence was intense.

"We have had some time to reflect on what has happened," said Bach.

"And yet, it seems that it is only now becoming clear what a void he has left in the hearts of so many people and in the entire Olympic Movement.

"We are all still under shock.

"Even though some time has passed, our hearts and minds are still filled with too much grief, preventing us from taking the necessary decision to appoint a worthy successor to his many roles.

"We owe it to Patrick and we will carry on his work in the same spirit of cooperation and unity.

"In this way, we will carry on his legacy."

IOC President Thomas Bach was among well-wishers at Patrick Baumann’s memorial service ©IOC
IOC President Thomas Bach was among well-wishers at Patrick Baumann’s memorial service ©IOC

Bach added: "Through this act of remembrance, the spirit of Patrick continues to live on in all our hearts.

"Let us remember that even in this time of mourning and sadness, we should also celebrate Patrick's life.

"We are grateful for his great contribution to make the world a better place through sport.

"We are grateful he was with us and can call him a true friend.

"Let us celebrate the spirit of friendship and optimism because these are the values Patrick personified.

"This is what Patrick wants us to do, and I know how much he will appreciate this celebration of the Olympic values."

In his speech at the service, Muratore said Baumann had "made his mark in the history of FIBA and that of world basketball".

"In all duties he performed, Patrick was a  leader, a visionary who always brought to light new ideas that would advance sport," he said.

"He had become an essential pillar of the sport and Olympic Movement, as he felt strongly that sport had the power to change lives.

"The best way to honour Patrick is to continue his legacy.

"Of course, the leader leaves behind a huge void, as the sport owes him so much.

"But the man will be missed even more.

"Rest in peace, Patrick."

In January, the new Lausanne 2020 President, Virginie Faivre, vowed organisers of next year's Winter Youth Olympic Games would make the event "even more perfect" to honour Baumann.

Faivre told insidethegames it was a "privilege" to build on the foundations of her predecessor.

Another legacy of a life lived in the service of sport.