PARIS (AFP) –
Jacques Rogge has plenty to do when he retires as President of the International Olympic Committee in just over a year’s time — and he says he will do so proud of the legacy he leaves behind.
The 70-year-old Belgian, at the helm since he was elected to replace Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001, said there was much to be pleased about as he contemplates life after 12 years as head of sport’s most powerful governing body.
His successor will be elected in Buenos Aires in September next year.
“Normally with regards to legacy you only speak about that when people die,” he told AFP in an interview this week at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I didn’t take the mandate up to leave a legacy and historians can write about that in 20 years time if they so wish. However… I took up the baton of Samaranch and I believe I will leave behind some notable successes.
“The quality of the Olympic Games under my presidency have been very well organised, the Youth Olympic Games (his brainchild) has been a very great success.
“I have fought against doping and illegal betting and I will leave with the financial revenue in a very strong state.
“This (money) is not a good thing necessarily and not the essence of what we are about but without money you cannot cook!”
Rogge, an orthopaedic surgeon by profession, said that his sporting background — he was an Olympic yachtsman and played rugby for Belgium — had given him some important lessons in how to address his responsibilities as head of the IOC.
“I am blessed by a very diversified upbringing,” said Rogge, who was also a ringside boxing doctor and was once told in no uncertain terms by his wife that she would not do his laundry when he came back from bouts spattered in blood.
“I competed in an individual sport — sailing — and the collective sport, with rather less success, of rugby. So, hopefully I took the best out of both the individual and collective sports.
“Definitely one thing you take out of both is that if you are not a superman at sports — and I was definitely not superman — then it teaches you humility, because you lose more often than you win.”
Rogge retired from sailing aged 34, turning his attention to the political side of sports, joining first his national Olympic committee and then accepting Samaranch’s invitation to become an IOC member in 1991.
He said he had enjoyed many aspects of the job.
“A great bonus is to be in contact with different members of society,” he explained.
“You meet with the media, you meet with corporate businessmen for sponsorship reasons then there is the TV world and the scientific world for the battle against doping and the health of the athletes.
“But for me to this day the nicest moment is being in the stadia and with the athletes in the athletes’ village.”
Rogge said his most difficult moment as an athlete came when he decided after great personal turmoil to continue to compete at the 1972 Munich Games after Palestinian terror group Black September killed 11 Israeli coaches and athletes.
He said he has clear plans for what he will do once he steps down.
“Well, it is clear you have much more time before you,” he said with a smile.
“I will practise more sport, on the bike or the treadmill with appropriate weight training which does not give me injuries!
“I will continue to do some sailing and while I am a very bad golf player I would still like to persist and play.
“I will read the enormous pile of books (he especially likes ones on philosophy, science and history and cites the French classic ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery as his favourite book) and I am a great lover of both modern art and contemporary art, so there are many museums to visit and more time to do it.
“Other than that I will drive my two grandchildren to the sports club!”