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Rogge reflects on 12 years as IOC president

September 3, 2013

Jacques Rogge bows out as president of the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 10 after 12 years in office.

The former orthopedic surgeon from Belgium brought stability to the IOC in the wake of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, oversaw three Summer Olympics and three Winter Games and created the Youth Olympics. He also took a hard line against doping, made peace with the U.S. Olympic Committee and bolstered the IOC’s finances during tough economic times.

As he prepared for retirement, Rogge spoke about his presidency and legacy in an interview with The Associated Press. Here are some excerpts:


Q: What has been the high point of your presidency?

A: It’s not just one single thing. Everything is interlocked and interdependent. I would say I’m very glad of the quality of the games that were held under my watch, summer or winter. I’m very glad by the success and the development of the Youth Olympic Games. I think we fought for values by fighting against doping and supporting WADA. We fought against illegal betting. I think we can be reassured by our financial stability. We were able to solve the thorny (revenue-sharing) issue of the USOC. We have been able to establish a war chest of $900 million, when we started at $90 million in 2001. That is a guarantee should the games not be organized. We made inroads in our relations with United Nations for social responsibility and support for humanitarian causes. We have been accepted as an observer of the United Nations.


Q: What about a favorite personal moment?

A: There are more than one. There’s Usain Bolt. There’s Michael Phelps. There’s Matthew Pinsent, and so many others that have really been outstanding.


Q: The low point?

A: On the dark side is, of course, (the death of Georgian luger) Nodar Kumaritashvili that I will never forget. They told me that there had been a very bad accident on the luge track (in Vancouver) with a Georgian athlete and he was in reanimation. I immediately went to the emergency room. We have an emergency room in the hotel where everyone would come together in the case of a crisis. The organizers were there, both federations were there, and the IOC leadership was there. Unfortunately after five minutes we heard that the athlete had passed away. We had to take measures immediately. This was just before the opening of the games. We established links with the family of the athlete, with the NOC, with the president of the Republic of Georgia. We made arrangements for the funeral. We took technical measures with the federation. The starting position was lowered, and there was an inspection of the track to see if other problems could occur. All of this had to be done in one hour, one hour and a half, in a very somber mood.


Q: How would you define your legacy?

A: I hope that people with time will consider that I did a good job for the IOC. That’s what you legitimately want to be remembered for. I received an IOC in good shape from Samaranch. And I believe I will leave an IOC in good shape to my successor. He will have to develop the IOC further. I think most of it will not change but will have to be adapted.


Q: You are leaving your successor with serious challenges ahead in Sochi and Rio.

A: We’re working hard together with both organizers and any potential shortcoming has been addressed. I expect both games to be good ones. I compare the situation with my first games in Salt Lake City. I was elected in July (2001), then came 9/11. I had to work together with (President George W.) Bush to have updated security measures but ultimately the games were superb and they were very good games. I think Sochi will be absolutely OK because the Russians love sport, they know sport, there is no limitation in their desire to perform well. For Rio, I am quite sure and quite confident they will be very good games also. We will benefit from the experience of the (2014) FIFA World Cup.


Q: Hasn’t it become too expensive for cities to host the Olympics?

A: I think we took the necessary measures by cutting the number of athletes, by cutting the number of sports. At times I was considered as being stubborn. We need to control the size of the games. We have imposed a limit of 10,000 athletes and 28 sports. On one hand, we have to make sure we contain the size. On the other hand, we have to help the organizing cities by lowering the demands and the service levels. I remain optimistic because to organize the games for a city is a win-win situation. If they are clever in organizing a sustainable legacy, the games will give them a lot of heritage.


Q: Will the Olympics be held in Africa any time soon?

A: I would hope so. We are speaking 2024 at the earliest. It remains to be seen if there will be a candidature. 2015 is the time when cities should decide whether they bid or not. Wait and see, but I think normally Africa should be able to organize the games on the midterm.


Q: How important was the signing of a new revenue-sharing deal with the USOC?

A: The situation was a thorn that irritated a lot of people in the Olympic movement. This was an agreement that was signed in 1996 after the Atlanta Games under the then prevailing economic circumstances. In the meantime the world had changed. It was in the interest of both the USOC and IOC to find a good agreement, an agreement that would respect the special place of the USOC and the consent of all the nations.


Q: What do you think of the six candidates to succeed you?

A: There is no sign of revolution. There is a sign of necessary evolution. The fundamentals that were present under (Juan Antonio) Samaranch and my mandate are going to continue: quality of the games, financial stability of the IOC, a quest to fight for values against doping, illegal betting. I don’t expect a major shift from what has been done under Samaranch and me and I believe was quite successful.


Q: What are your plans for retirement?

A: I will spend much more time with my family. I am a family man. I will be able to practice sport more than I can do today — occasional sailing, keeping fit by running, also bicycling, and do some modest golf. I have a pile five meters high of DVDs and books. I have a passion with my wife for modern art and we go to galleries and exhibitions and art fairs. I will be serving in a couple of boards for charities and social organizations. I’ll take care of the sporting development of my grandchildren. I’ll be present at the games as an honorary member and enjoying them in a different mode than I enjoyed them when I was active.

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