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  • Rogge: Olympics Will Rebound from Crisis


    (ATR) The Olympics will rebound from "crisis" in time for the Beijing Games, says IOC president Jacques Rogge, who also expressed his sadness over protests affecting the torch relay in Europe and the US.

    Addressing a joint meeting of the IOC and the 205 member NOCs of the Association of National Olympic Committees, Rogge says sports bosses to reassure their athletes that the situation will improve.
    IOC president Jacques Rogge. (ATR/A.Stavrinos)  

    "Tell them (athletes) and reassure them that whatever they might have seen and heard, the Games will be very well-organized," Rogge told delegates.

    "It is going to be their Games … they will enjoy it. Tell them not to lose faith in the Olympic movement. Tell them we will rebound from this crisis.

    "Tell them they are going to set an example and that the world will be watching them."

    Rogge urged the Olympics community to unite. Solidarity is not just needed -- it is vital, he says.

    Sadness at Torch Relay

    Rogge told delegates that when he addressed them earlier this week, he reiterated the "serious concerns and emotions of the International Olympic Committee about the situation in Tibet".

    "I expressed the hope for a rapid and peaceful resolution of this crisis. I stated that violence for whatever reason is contrary to the Olympic values, to the torch relay and to the Olympic Games," Rogge says.

    "We were saddened by what we saw in London and Paris. We were sad for the athletes and the torch bearers. We were sad for the children who watched their athletes and heroes being booed."
    The IOC Executive Board and ANOC representatives met on Thursday in Beijing. (ATR/A.Stavrinos)  

    The global Olympics chief says the IOC respects the right of people to protest but cannot condone violence.

    "Fortunately the situation was better yesterday in San Francisco. It was, however, not the joyous party that we wished it to be," he says.

    But the global journey of the torch – which next reaches Buenos Aires - will not be cut short.

    "This scenario is definitely not on the agenda," Rogge has told reporters.

    Freedom of Expression for Athletes

    Rogge has also sought to clarify the guidelines after requests from NOCs, particularly from the European Olympic Committees regional group, led by Irish IOC member Patrick Hickey.

    In an informal meeting earlier this week, 22 member NOCs from the EOC sought a statement of clarification from the IOC president.

    Earlier, Rogge had opened the meeting by declaring: "athletes in many countries are in disarray".

    He says they need to be reassured the key responsibility of the Olympics community is to offer them the Games they deserve.
    IOC Press Commission chairman Kevan Gosper, IOC president Jacques Rogge, ANOC president Mario Vasquez Rana, IOC Communications Director Giselle Davies attend a media briefing after the joint IOC-ANOC meeting. (ATR/A.Stavrinos)  

    "The Games are about much more than performance alone. They are about values of universality, respect, tolerance and friendship," he says.

    "They must be underpinned by the respect of ethical values -- no doping, no cheating, and the respect of human rights."

    Responding to Hickey's expression of gratitude for acting swiftly on what he describes as a "delicate issue", Rogge has reaffirmed the role of the Olympic Charter as the guideline document for athletes.

    "As a general point the expression of opinions is not in the Olympic Charter," he says.

    "It's not in the charter because there is no need for it to be in the Olympic Charter because this is a basic human right. What is evident does not have to be in the charter."

    Rule 51.3 of the Charter provides that: "no kind of demonstrations for political, religious or racial propaganda are permitted in any Olympic site, venue or areas."

    Rogge says that while many people believe this is a new rule that had been drafted for Beijing, that is not the case.

    "This rule was enacted under the charter in 1960-61 -- before the 1968 incidents in Mexico. It has been in place for more than 40 years," he explains.

    "If we didn't have this rule to protect the magic sphere of the Olympic Games, this could be used as a stage for all kinds of political or religious disputes or ethnic conflicts."

    Rogge says many of the 205 member NOCs are in conflict and that some are in a state of war based on religious, ethnic and cultural divides, he says.

    "If we let athletes or coaches or officials use the opening or closing ceremonies or the podium ceremony as a way to express these divides, this will be the end of the spirit of the Olympic Games."

    Media Censorship In China

    Rogge – whose comments on TV expressing concern over the situation in Tibet were blacked out by Chinese censors earlier this week – says he has asked local authorities to finish implementing new media laws.

    "We have asked the Chinese authorities to pass a law, which they did," Rogge, who met Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao this week, told reporters.

    "We know the implementation of this code is not perfect and has shortcomings. Again, this week, I have insisted that this be addressed, that the media have the full benefits of the law."

    China introduced regulations in January last year, easing restrictions across China for media for the Beijing Olympics.

    But restrictions remain for foreign media wanting to report in western regions, including Tibet.

    Chairman of the IOC Press Commission, Kevan Gosper of Australia, says BOCOG has assured him internet censorship will be lifted for journalists covering the Olympics during Games time.

    And while it is unclear whether lifting television censorship is a provision of the new media laws, BOCOG gave assurances during IOC Coordination meetings earlier this month.

    Among the assurances are that broadcasters also will be guaranteed permission to transmit without being subject to delays that are commonplace on Chinese television networks.

    Gosper expects unhindered internet access from "a week or two" before the Games until a few days after with the eased restrictions not extended to the 1.3 billion people in China.

    Censorship is part of everyday life for the Chinese, but foreigners in residential compounds or hotels, with access to networks including CNN and BBC, also have contentious reports 'blacked out'.

    Sir Arlington Steps Down

    Bahamas Olympic Association president Sir Arlington Butler earlier told the joint meeting he is stepping down after 36 years as president.
    Sir Arlington Butler will not run for the Bahamas NOC presidency again, he says. (ATR/A.Stavrinos)  

    He says he will not contest the presidency May 8 in Nassau. Though the end of his tenure was clouded by a dispute over his role in choosing electors for his last NOC leadership vote, Butler says he will always look fondly on his involvement in the Olympic community.

    “We came from a position of silence, when NOCs had no say until today – our voices are heard, we can make input and we can talk directly to the president of the IOC,” Sir Arlington tells Around The Rings.

    “Those are very important developments.”

    Reported from Beijing by Anthony Stavrinos

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