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  • New Sports Will Come to Olympics Says IOC President


    08/14/09

    “I understand very well that not everyone can agree maybe with the proposals. People can have different choices.” (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    IOC President Jacques Rogge tells Around the Rings he believes the full IOC membership will be in favor of golf and rugby when they vote on the sports at the IOC Session in Copenhagen in October.

    “I would dearly hope so. If we propose something it is with the hope that members will accept it,” he said in an exclusive interview with ATR in Berlin Friday.

    “I understand very well that not everyone can agree maybe with the proposals. People can have different choices,” Rogge said.

    “I will tell my colleagues it might not be to your individual liking…but your decision is going to affect a lot of athletes and is going to affect the IOC. And if you say no then we stay with 26 or 27 sports and that is not the purpose of the whole study that we have done.”

    Rogge said the selection of the two sports by the IOC Executive Board Thursday was the culmination of a process for adding sports to the Olympics initiated at the 2007 IOC Session in Guatemala.

    Changes were made to the bidding procedure that followed the debacle at the Singapore Session two years earlier when proposals for squash and karate were rejected after failing to win a two-thirds majority.

    “Four years ago in Singapore [IOC Session venue], the process was not as elaborate as it has been now,” he said. “Now there has been an in-depth study of all of the seven sports with reports sent to all IOC members,” he said.

    The seven sports in this bid contest – which also included baseball, karate, softball, squash and roller sports – not only had the opportunity to present to the IOC program commission last November, but also to EB members in June.

    Olympics Will Develop Rugby and Golf

    Rogge dismissed the suggestion that the IOC might be sending out mixed messages by choosing golf at the Copenhagen Session because of the expensive infrastructure needed and gender discrimination still prevalent in some golf clubs globally.

    “We are not blind for the shortcomings of any sport. The issue of gender discrimination is one that has been discussed,” he said.

    “But we believe in the positive effect of picking a sport and we believe that in time, it’s not going to be tomorrow, this is going to promote the cause of women in golf clubs in the future. We have no doubt about that.”

    He added that golf would use existing infrastructure and the cost of developing venues for the Olympics was therefore not a major concern.
    IOC President Jacques Rogge speaks with ATR in Berlin. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    For someone who once played rugby for the Belgian national team, Rogge’s passion for the game is no secret. He insisted Rugby Sevens, the shortened form of the sport proposed by the International Rugby Board, would have an impact on the Olympic Games.

    “Rugby Sevens is a spectacular sport, very dynamic. This is something that is short, quick with a lot of scoring,” he said. “It’s easier to understand than 15s… and there are many countries who could win the title.”

    Questions have been raised over the ability of golf and rugby to generate youth interest in the Olympics, one of Rogge’s key objectives in his eight years in office.

    But the IOC chief clearly believes the sports can revive enthusiasm for the Olympics among the younger generation.

    “Definitely rugby more than golf, although you should not underestimate the number of young golf players. That is growing a lot in the golf countries,” he said.

    “I think golf will get the icons. The major players have committed that they will come. They will definitely attract the attention.”

    A Message to Rejected Sports

    Rogge insisted baseball, karate, softball, squash and roller sports should not abandon all hope of joining the Olympics following the EB’s decision to recommend golf and rugby.

    He indicated there was likely to be one place on the Olympic program up for grabs in 2013, the next time any sport can apply to gain admission.

    “If things go as we hope, and we expect that indeed there would be one sport in 2013, that’s the place to look for,” he said.

    His message for them offered some encouragement. “I would say to these sports ‘Continue to work very hard and as much as possible in the continental sports organizations and continental championships, where most of them have started to be engaged. And to say that you should never give up and that with time things are always possible.”

    He cited boxing’s campaign to bring women into the 2012 Olympics, something ratified Thursday by the EB, as an example of positive change to the Olympic program.

    “One day, I can’t tell you exactly when, but one day we will have other sports events and other disciplines that are today knocking on the door and will be introduced,” he said.

    Rogge also addressed ongoing concerns about the lack of a dynamic mix of sports and disciplines in the current program.

    “This has been my vocation all of my life. If you look at the end of my first term, eight years in the job, what did I do, basically for the Olympic Games?”

    Since becoming IOC president in 2001, Rogge said he has attempted to improve the quality of the Games and the sports program. Labeling it a “long quest”, he said the process started at the 2002 Mexico Session and has continued
    Rogge says sports such as karate should “never give up” the quest for the Olympics.
    through Sessions in Singapore, Guatemala and on to Copenhagen in October.

    “So, yes, I’m a strong believer that we have to revamp and make the Olympic program dynamic and evolving. It cannot be too conservative,” he said.

    Yesterday, the EB rejected most of the applications from international federations for changes to the program for London 2012. Only a small number were approved, including women’s boxing and changes to canoe sprint, modern pentathlon and handball.

    “We added where we thought it would add the value to the Games, like boxing,” he said. “But to most of the federations, I have to say no. It’s not a pleasant part of the job. If I want to keep the Games manageable, I have to say no to some things.”

    Hopes for Singapore Youth Olympics

    With 365 days to go until the opening ceremony of the inaugural summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, Rogge tells ATR he has realistic hopes for the YOG.
    “For the kids it’s going to be wonderful and that’s for me the most important,” says Rogge about the Youth Olympic Games. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

    “This is something that has to grow. You cannot expect this to be at the level and sophistication of the Olympic Games, and we even don’t want this to be at that level. I want it to remain frugal,” he said.

    “For the kids it’s going to be wonderful and that’s for me the most important,” he added, noting that the European Youth Olympic Festival he launched in 1991 had also started slowly without much media interest

    “But the atmosphere there is fantastic and the NOCs are enthusiastic. They all want to participate and prepare their teams.”

    But there are serious doubts that the 2010 YOG will generate the desired media interest outside of the city-state and Asia.

    Rogge disputes the notion. “I will be very blunt with you. I am absolutely not concerned today about media and broadcasting coverage,” he said, adding that the IOC had decided not to sell TV rights but would satisfy the needs of media with TV highlights packages produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services.

    More from the interview with Jacques Rogge Aug. 17, at www.aroundtherings.com.

    Reported and Written by Mark Bisson, Ed Hula, and Karen Rosen.

    Photos by Karen Rosen.

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