PARIS (AFP) –
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told AFP he had been privileged to be in charge of global sport’s most powerful body for the past 12 years.
The 70-year-old Belgian, who steps down in September, said being in such a position had given him the power as a sports lover to achieve dreams and aspirations for all sports.
The former Olympic yachtsman, whose understated style contrasted with his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch who was responsible for turning the Games into a huge commercial success, admitted when he hands over to his successor he will have achieved his goal of passing on a healthy legacy.
“It is a privilege when you love sport like I do. It gives you the means to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of sports,” he told AFP in an exclusive interview at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I believe I will be regarded as a president who has done his work. My goal was always to transfer to my successor a solid and effective IOC.
“I believe I have done enough and been sufficiently tough against doping, also for the youth of the world with the introduction of the Youth Olympic Games and that I have placed the athlete at the centre of attention.
“All the Olympic Games I have overseen, from Salt Lake City to London, have been of the highest quality but that is down to a team effort.
“I could close the Games and reflect on a very successful Games. A job well done.”
For Rogge, the best part of the job was the opening ceremony of a Games.
“It is the most joyous occasion because you see the dreams and expectations writ on the athletes faces,” he said.
Rogge, who said he was also proud of his drive in promoting more women athletes to be represented at the Olympics with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar falling into line, admitted the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in Vancouver in 2010 had been the most painful moment.
“It was a sad moment. It was a shock and a painful issue,” he said.
“However, you have to handle it. You have to deal with the athlete’s family, and the team. Then you have to deal with the issue for the future of the sport and come to the right conclusions.”
Rogge, who will leave the IOC in rude financial health — so much so he says that they could afford to sustain the costs of a Games being cancelled — said the advice he would give his successor was very simple.
“I will say to my successor: ‘Know how to listen to others’,” he said.
Rogge said that despite there only ever being one non-European — American white supremacist Avery Brundage — as IOC president it didn’t mean it was time to look outside the continent for his successor.
“It is not a factor in IOC members minds. What they consider is whether the person is capable or not,” he said.
Whilst Rogge still has several major decisions to take charge of — the host for the 2020 Games and the tricky redistribution of revenue among the summer Olympic sports last dealt with in 1996 which he admits will leave some of them unhappy — he will not stay around haunting his successor.
“I will resign from the IOC after the election,” he said.
“I could stay on as a member for 10 years but that is a long way off. I believe it is better not to have the past president being around with the arrival of a new president.”
For Rogge, who will donate his diary, which he updates every day, to the IOC archives, it will soon be time to devote himself to his grandchildren.
“I’ll be what they call a driving grandpa,” he said.
“However, I am not going to push them into one sport. I will not be on the sidelines shouting encouragement or criticising them.”