Olympics: Jacques Rogge set for new 4-year term as IOC chief
AP Sports Writer
LONDON — Jacques Rogge has presided over four Olympics, led a determined fight against doping and steadied the ship after the worst ethics crisis in the movement's history.
After an eight-year term in office, he is about to embark on a second — and final — four-year mandate as president of the International Olympic Committee. Rogge goes forward with the Olympic brand in remarkably sound shape despite the economic downturn and other challenges.
The 67-year-old Belgian and former orthopedic surgeon is up for re-election Friday on the final day of the IOC session in Copenhagen. The election is a formality; Rogge is the only candidate.
"If I'm re-elected I will have plenty to keep me busy from early morning to late in the evening for four years," he said.
Rogge was elected the IOC's eighth president in July 2001, defeating three other candidates and taking over from Juan Antonio Samaranch after 21 years in power.
Rogge has overseen successful Summer Olympics in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) and Winter Games in Salt Lake City (2002) and Turin, Italy (2006). Perhaps even more significant was the IOC's vote last Friday to award the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro, sending the Olympics to South America for the first time.
While Rogge didn't vote and remained neutral in the race, Rio's victory over Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago represents an important legacy for his presidency and indicates that he has consolidated his power over the 106-member body.
Another test comes Friday when the IOC assembly votes on whether to include rugby and golf in the 2016 Games. The latest recommendations were made by the executive board under Rogge's guidance and require majority approval from the members.
"I am confident they will approve it," Rogge said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "There are definitely members who would have preferred another sport, even maybe two other sports. But I think that the members will definitely agree that the two sports presented are very strong sports and could add a lot to the Olympic program."
Rogge's personality and leadership style has been in sharp contrast with Samaranch, a former Spanish diplomat who used his political skills to work aggressively behind the scenes to get what he wanted.
"He (Samaranch) was a great diplomat. He was entering the Cold War era," IOC member Timothy Fok of Hong Kong said. "Now we have a surgeon. A doctor looks at things and thinks, 'Cut or don't cut?' He is a steady hand at the helm."
Senior Canadian member Dick Pound, who ran against Rogge in 2001, also drew the distinction with Samaranch.
"Samaranch is very much a hands-on person on all the policy," Pound said. "He would go and say, 'Listen if you want me to do this job I need A, B, C, D and E elected to the executive board,' whereas Jacques says, 'I'll like who you like. I'll work with whoever it is.'"
Rogge came to office in the wake of the Salt Lake City bid scandal, in which IOC members received cash, medical treatment, lavish gifts and other inducements during the Utah capital's successful campaign for the 2002 Winter Games. Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled, and the IOC implemented a series of reforms to clean up the organization.
Rogge, who call himself "a sober man" by nature, has worked hard to prevent any further ethical violations and stood firm on the ban on member visits to bid cities. In a break from tradition, he stays in the athletes' village during much of the games.
Thanks in part to his medical background, Rogge also has led a tougher line on performance-enhancing drugs, declaring a "zero-tolerance" policy on cheaters and their entourages.
The IOC doubled the number of in-competition and out-of-competition tests from Sydney to Beijing, began storing samples for eight years for retroactive testing and imposed Olympic bans on any athlete receiving a doping suspension of six months or more. During Rogge's watch, the IOC also collaborated with Italian police in their doping raid on the Austrian cross-country team's lodgings in Turin.
"Basically when I took over from Samaranch, my priority was to do what I would call value building," Rogge told the AP. "The value building was putting the fight against doping as the No. 1 priority of the IOC."
He also cites the IOC's moves to monitor online betting patterns and work closely with Interpol to prevent match-fixing, and forcing improvements in the judging and refereeing systems in figure skating, gymnastics, fencing, taekwondo and boxing.
Rogge was the driving force behind the creation of the Youth Olympic Games, which will debut with the summer event in Singapore next year and the inaugural winter version in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012. The games — another centerpiece of his legacy — will feature athletes aged 14-18 and focus not just on sport but also on cultural, health and educational issues.
"My main priority for the next term is to strengthen what I've been doing before," Rogge said. "There is still a lot to do in all aspects of value building. I want to build the Youth Olympic Games from infancy to adulthood."
The IOC's finances have also strengthened under Rogge's presidency and managed to weather the global recession.
In his speech to the assembly Wednesday, Rogge said revenues from top-tier sponsors have increased from $663 million from the 2001-04 cycle to $883 million for 2009-12, with negotiations continuing in an effort to sign up one or two more sponsors.
Television rights deals — the biggest source of Olympic money — have brought in $3.8 billion for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and 2012 London Olympics, up from $2.6 billion for 2006-08.
The IOC's financial reserve fund, which assures the survival of the committee for four years in the event of an Olympics being canceled, has gone from $105 million in 2001 to $455 million today.
One of Rogge's main challenges for the next term will be to mend fences with the U.S. Olympic Committee, especially after Chicago's humiliating first-round exit with just 18 votes in the 2016 election. Long-simmering tensions over the USOC's greater share of television and sponsorship revenues contributed to Chicago's defeat, and Rogge needs to bring America back into the Olympic fold.
Pound said the jury was still out on Rogge's presidency.
"I think he's been successful enough that nobody wants to change presidents," he said. "That's about all you can say in an organization like this. It's too soon to start talking about a legacy. You have to wait and see how these Youth Olympic Games do, for one thing. That's something that's been the big change."
AP Sports Writers John Leicester and Mattias Karen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.