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Head of the International Olympic Committee /IOC/ Jacques Rogge spoke about his likely successor as president, comparing one of the candidates, Sergei Bubka, with Pierre de Coubertin. He called as one of the main achievements the high level of competition organized by the IOC. Rogge also told what sports he will continue to practice after he steps down in September at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.
- Mr. President, the first question is about the further IOC Presidential elections. Two weeks ago in Lausanne you heard all the candidates’ presentations. Could you speak about your opinion? Is there anything that unifies all platforms?
- Well, I would never express my personal opinion of any of the six candidates as you could imagine. But let me tell you that I found it as a very interesting exercise and I’ve listened with attention to all the six presentations. There is a common part in all six of them. The necessity of having good, quality Games which has been also my priority, the necessity to continue to fight for values, as we have done, against doping and match fixing, to have solid financing. So, I see a unity in the targets, particularly the quality of Games, the values and finances are what my successors have proposed. Of course, they have slight differences from one to the other but I can say that these presentations show that they all want evolution and not revolution.
- A specific question about one of these candidates: Sergei Bubka. Is he a real candidate for IOC presidency or his nomination is more like a lance to the future, the preparation for the further election? After all, he’s the youngest of the contenders: he’s only 49 years old, while the other five candidates have already turned 60.
- I’ll tell first of all that the bid of Sergei is a bid with the ambition to win and not just to participate. He’s lobbying very well, he’s working for his candidature, so I don’t think you have to believe that Sergei is preparing a second bid and this is just a stepping stone. I don’t believe that. You say that Sergei is 49. May I remind you that Pierre de Coubertin reinstated the Games at the Sorbonne congress in Paris in 1894 and he was 30 years old.
- How important is for the future president of IOC to have connections in the financial world?
- The president of IOC must be a good manager. We have a great responsibility in supporting sport, the Olympic Solidarity program; we support international federations and Olympic committees. This is a budget of about $4.5-5 billon of a period of 4 years. You need to be wise in financial matters, of course.
- You have always supported compact Olympic Games and the number of sports at the Games barely increased. Will you insist that the next president have the same position or you won’t have such a possibility after September 10?
- There’s one important aspect – the number of athletes, and I think that everyone agrees with the idea that there must be a limit that is around the actual limit of 10 500. This limit of 10 500 is something that all the candidates are accepting. They would want maybe to change a little bit the system. We worked with the system of 28 sports /summer sports/. There are proposals that some have taken up and this is a proposal of ASOIF to see that in the future it would be better to work with disciplines and not with events. The intention is to take some disciplines or events out of a federation that has many, taking some of them away and giving them from an Olympic sport to sports that are not Olympic nowadays and that want to attend to the program. So there will be a shift of discipline from one sport to another sport. That’s an interesting idea that has to be developed. If it’s studied, I think it would be worthy. Providing, and this is the most important thing that I insist on, that there must be a safe limit of athletes.
- Could you give some examples of this shift of one discipline from one sport to another?
- I’m not going to give a name of a federation. But do imagine a federation that has maybe 20 or 25 events. There could be a study at the level of that federation to see which events are less popular than others. Then to say to that federation that we’re not going to put these events anymore in the Olympic Games because we consider that they are not popular enough but we are going to give them to a sport that is outside the Olympic program today that would want to enter into the program. 4 or 5 events that we are taking away from a federation A would be given to federation B. That is the proposal.
- It’s like a compromise comparing the actual system.
- It’s a compromise like a shift from one federation to another. Yes, you can use the word compromise.
- You became the first president who openly identified doping and corruption as major problems of the Olympic movement. Have you managed to defeat them?
- There is a lot of progress. It is far more difficult to take doping today than it used to be ten years ago. One has to be realistic: doping will never completely disappear out of sport, but I can say that today there is far less doping that it used to be ten years ago. We’ve made great progress at fighting with doping. We are now making progress at fighting illegal betting, there are more and more athletes and people that get condemned, sanctioned, and we see more evidently that it works.
- During your presidency the IOC budget has increased by four or five times. How did you achieve this?
- Basically - by good negotiations with television and sponsors. We have 12 sponsors and about 130 television stations. So, on the revenue side we were able to generate much more revenue, but also on the expenditure side we’ve been very prudent and very conservative on widening the IOC itself. But at the same time we’ve been able to give 40% more to the national leagues and to the Olympic Solidarity.
- What do you consider the major achievement during your presidency?
- There is not one. There are many, and very important for the athletes. I think, first of all, the quality of the Games that we had under my mandate – three Summer Games, three Winter Games and two Youth Olympic Games, all of which were excellent. This is our common responsibility: to give good Games to the athletes because they deserve it. Second part is the creation of the Youth Olympic Games. The third part is that we fought very hard for values - against doping, against illegal betting. The fourth part is that we have solid financial reserves and revenues. The fifth part is that we have used sport as a social factor, as an education to look at sport as a tool to have people at society. We have had an agreement with the United Nations that gave us the status of observer. We sign bilateral agreements with all the associates of the UN, we bring sport in refugee camps, in developing countries, we build infrastructure. We work very hard on the prevention of HIV/AIDS; we do humanitarian support when there are natural catastrophes. All of that is something that we have done beyond the purely athletic performances.
- You have always been a supporter of opening up new areas for the Olympic movement: the first Olympics in China, the first Olympics in South America, Sochi Games. Do you think it’s possible to conduct such a policy in the future given the difficult financial situation in the world?
- I think, the most important thing is to be sure that the Games do not cost too much and are not too sophisticated, too complicated. That’s why I insist so much on having a limit on the number of the athletes, because it’s the athletes who derive the cost of the games. Athletes need the Olympic village, they need transportation, they need Olympic restaurants, they need security. All of that adds to the costs, so we have to have a limit, and we’ve set the limit at 10 500. I believe that my successor will do the same because they all agree that this is the ideal number. So, first of all, make sure that the Games are not too expensive and that we can have as many candidates /cities/as it is possible. Secondly, the quality of the Games is vitally important because the athletes deserve it. And third is, beyond that, in addition to that, we can have a vision. First is the affordability of the Games, second is the quality and the third thing is the vision.
- What do you mean by vision?
- The vision is to award the first time the Games to Latin America, to go to the most popular country in the world, China, to go to a new frontier, a new development of sports in Asia with Pyongyang. So that’s the vision factor. To go back to the roots of Olympics – to Athens, to go back to London is to go back to the country that has invented modern sport. This is the vision factor.
- Is it possible that IOC will follow the UEFA example which will hold Euro 2020 in several countries, and, for example, 2024 Olympics will be held at several locations?
- No, we are not going to do that. We believe that the value of the Games lies in many aspects but basically in keeping all the sports in the same city or in the same region. We’re not going to spread to different cities because we would lose the atmosphere of the Games. It would be far too difficult with 28 sports to distribute around a country. You can do it in the FIFA World Cup that organizes three events a day. That’s not too hard to do because you can easily spread in three different places in a country, if it’s not a big country like Russia. But you cannot play and have the spirit and the organization with 28 sports disseminated into one country, it’s not possible.
- Were the mass protests in Brazil a reason of concern for the IOC? There are a lot of similar points between the Olympic Games and the World Cup: big investments, big construction etc. Are you expecting something similar during the 2016 Games or, maybe, next year in Sochi?
- I don’t see why there will be difficulties in Sochi. Things are going well, the construction is over, we are now entering the operational phase. I expect a very good World Cup in 2014 too because of the level of sport of the Brazilians - they love football, - and because at the Confederation Cup in terms of organization they are doing a good job. I believe the FIFA World Cup will be a success and that will definitely influence for the good Olympic Games. There are protests, and we respect people’s protests. It will be our responsibility to explain that the money invested by the government in the Games is not for the two weeks of the Games, it is for generations to come. If you build a new harbor and a bay, if you have new metro lines, a new highway – all of that is what you have, the development you see in Sochi – is not for the two weeks of the Games, it is for generations to come.
- Is it true that the IOC agreed to pay the insurance of NHL players who will come to the Olympic Games in Sochi? If not, at what stage are the negotiations and which is the IOC role in that?
- These are not finalized between the International Ice Hockey Federation and NHL. But we are progressing and I expect them to be successful, but it is too soon at this stage to make statements about that because they are being finalized.
- You have been supervising for six years the Sochi Olympic Games preparation process but the Games themselves will be held under another IOC president. Will you be in Sochi? In what capacity? What would you advise to the new head of the IOC regarding the Russian Games?
- I will be in Sochi as a honorary member of the IOC and I would probably enjoy the competition even more than I did when I was in charge of the Games because I will enjoy the beauty of sport without having responsibility in the way it is delivered. I’m not going to give any advice to my successor, I don’t think it is needed. If I look at the profiles of all the six candidates, all of them know the Games very well. I’m not going to be the stepmother for my successor.
- We’ve heard from one of the U.S. senators a suggestion to boycott the Games because of Snowden case. Are political boycotts allowed by the Olympic Charter and does one state has the right just not to send athletes on political reasons?
- I’m not going to comment the declarations that are not made by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. Olympic Committee has made a statement saying that boycotts did not help. I would advise you to read that statement, it’s very well done and I support that. I’m not going to give more comments on something that is very hypothetical.
- Last question: what are your plans after September 10?
- Many things. I will be able to practice more sport than I can do today because of my travelling. I will be more with my family. I will be reading tons of books that I had no time to read and I will pass more time organizing sport for my grandchildren.
- What kind of sport? Will it be the same kind of sport that you took part in the Olympics in the past?
- Oh yeah, the same sport: I will be sailing more, I will be riding the bicycle, keeping fit, but I won’t be playing rugby anymore because rugby is not possible at my age.
- Thank you very much, Mr. President.