Succeeding Juan Antonio Samaranch as IOC President was a tall order. Jacques Rogge, the second Belgian to hold the office, may have been these last 12 years a clarinet by comparison to his predecessors’ pianoforte. Yet in a different, distinctive style he has given the IOC security and dignity with a quiet face.
His successor will inevitably have problems, but Rogge leaves a financially wealthy international body uniquely lacking in political affiliations. If Samaranch was a revolutionary – necessary at the time of a boycott-riddled and semi-professional era – Rogge consolidated the revolution of transparency, if effected in 1999-2000 in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal. The modest Rogge studiously entrenched the IOC’s rebuilt charter.
Professor Arne Ljungqvist, likewise from a medical background and key figure within WADA and the Medical Commission, considers that Rogge connected the Olympic Movement to a stable itinerary that unostentatiously won international respect. He wasn’t so much king as the man who held all the keys. “Samaranch was essential at his time,” Ljungqvist says, “but Jacques brought calm waters, which we
Sebastian Coe, mastermind of London 2012, regards Rogge’s emphasis on the athlete being the soul of the Olympic Games as his most significant contribution.
“Being a former competitor, he knew that athletes ARE the Games”, Coe reflects. “His focus was athlete-orientated, and this made him admired as well as efficient. On top of that, I think he was unrecognized for the extent to which he consolidated the administrative changes of 1999, once he became president.”
This view is echoed by John Coates, Australian EB Member. “Being the first President to stay in the Village, as he did in Salt Lake, indicated just where his heart lay – alongside his fight against doping and match-fixing, an evil seriously arising during his
Subsequent to staying in the Village, Rogge conceived and finally established in 2010 the Youth Games, welcomed by Members such as Nat Indrapana of Thailand, whose tasks are to expand sports participation among contemporary technologically preoccupied youth.
Legendary French skier Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of co-ordination for Sochi’s Winter Games – a position I believe Rogge had to persuade him to accept – has just one word for the retiring President: integrity. “He has been committed and unswerving in all
he has done,” Killy says. “With him, everyone knew where they stood.”
A couple of days ago there was an informal dinner here in Buenos Aires for all those who have served on the EB under Rogge. One of those speaking in appreciation was Gerhard Heiberg, chairman of marketing and chief of Lillehammer’s memorable Winter Games of 1994.
“It is notable that I’ve never seen nor heard Jacques being attacked by anybody over his ideas or values. He has been inclusive, and remarkably in my eight years on the EB, we never had to have a vote. Jacques’ door has always been open, he listens before he makes up his mind – even if he then never changes it!”
The counterpoint to that has been Rogge’s reluctance to rethink issues already decided. The argument that he has allowed authority on some issues to rest with professional staff at Lausanne, has offended some Members. His defense would be that some fringe IOC Members lack the expertise in particular fields which are best left to the discretion of specialist staff, the bureaucracy.
Denis Oswald, candidate to succeed him, points to the complexity of criminal match-fixing. “There are some problems for which the IOC have no resource, and need to engage Interpol, for example, which has powers beyond us. Jacques realized that to fight doping and match-fixing, we need government assistance.”
If a failure has been lack of direction in resolving protracted debate on the Program, ever since an inconclusive extraordinary Session in 2002, the ace gold medal is to have built reserve funds approaching a billion dollars.
“What more can a man do?” asks Alex Gilady of Isreal.
Editor’s Note: Go to the top right corner of the IOC’s website to view Rogge’s speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Brazil, and other video highlights. Here’s another perspective from BBC Sports Editor David Bond on Rogge’s tenure as IOC president.
David Miller, who covered 22 Olympic Games and 14 World Cups, can be reached on Twitter @DavidOlympic. The above article was first appeared in The Sport Intern, a blog published by Karl-Heinz Huba in Lorsch, Germany. This article is reprinted here with permission from the blog publisher. Mr. Huba can be reached via email at ISMG@aol.com.