In an exclusive interview with the official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on the occasion of the one-year countdown to the event, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge looked back at the important events of the Olympic Movement, touched on its reform and anti-doping campaign, expressed his best wishes and anticipations for the upcoming Olympics, and for the volunteers and visitors of the official website.
Making sure the Olympics remain the dream of future generations
In July 2001, Moscow witnessed a significant historic event for both China and Rogge: There, Beijing won the right to hold the 2008 Games, and Rogge took over Antonio Samaranch's seat as IOC's eighth president. Six years have passed and now Beijing is bracing for the next year's event, while Mr. Rogge is leading the IOC in a new era of development.
The IOC President Jacques Rogge visits the Beijing No. 4 High School on August 6, 2007.
Speaking of the challenges facing the IOC, he said: "what you have to do is to make sure that the Olympic Games remain the dream of future generations. This is easy to say, but not easy to do. And we must make sure that it remains a dream. It has to remain the number one event in sport. It has to remain something that all young people aspire to. And this takes a lot of work."
The Modern Olympic Games has been around for more than 100 years, and now it has become a global sports and cultural event. In Rogge's opinion, the most important period was 1960 Rome Games where television came for the first time. "This has led to a far bigger audience than before, and this in turn has generated a lot of extra revenue for the Olympic movement."
He went on in length to review the reforms that have taken place in recent years: "We have tried to limit the size, the complexity, and also the gigantism of the Olympic Games, and therefore we have set a limit of 28 sports, of 10,500 athletes, and also we have taken 170 different measures that are slowly being implemented now, and we will come to about 100% of these measures in Beijing, and this will ensure that in the future the Games are better organized and also that they are affordable for more cities in the world, that not only big and rich cities can organize them, but also mid-size cities."
Responding to the question if that means that developing countries will have more opportunities to host the Games, he said: "Yes absolutely. This is what we want to have and we are sure that this is going to bring out very good results in the future."
He said IOC "definitely would love to see the continents that have not yet organized the Games like Africa or Latin America do that in the future." "I cannot tell you exactly when, but I will see it in my life I hope, and I think that there will be Games in these continents."
Doping has been a chronic problem hampering the development of the Olympic Movement. At the beginning of this year Mr. Rogge said one of his wishes for the year is to make further advances in eliminating doping cases. Assessing the results obtained thus far, he said progress has been made. "We are preparing a very strong anti-doping campaign in Beijing with our friends from BOCOG. We will have not less than 4,500 tests, which is about 1000 tests more than we had in Athens, and we have a very, very strong zero tolerance policy with that," he added.
Since August 2001, when Rogge visited Beijing for the first time as IOC president to watch the World University Games, he has been to Beijing several times. Speaking of his impressions of the development of Beijing over the past years, he said every time he lands in Beijing, he doesn't recognize the city.
"Each time it's a new city. This is a city now with splendid sports venues; this is a city where the transportation system is vastly improved. It's also a city that will have a new airport; it's a city that also is far better in terms of pollution and environment than it was before. There's still some work to do but there is major progress, so it's a new city and that is in fact the greatest legacy of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are about much more than just a sports competition. They really reshape the face of a city," he commented.
He further elaborated his views on venue construction, saying the IOC wants it "definitely to leave a positive and sustainable legacy for the Olympic Games," instead of building venues that are too big, or "white elephants." "The venues that are built for the Games must be adapted to their post-Games use," "that is the philosophy that we have to respect."
He said Beijing and BOCOG "are doing the excellent work" in preparing for the Olympics and "the collaboration between the two is absolutely excellent. Everything is being implemented according to schedule and deadline. The only advice I could give is to learn as much as possible from the test events and to implement these lessons in the last operational phase until the real Olympic Games."
On the occasion of the one-year countdown to the Beijing Games, the IOC will be mailing out invitations from Beijing to various national and regional Olympic committees (NOCs). Previously, IOC has done this at its headquarters in Lausanne. Rogge said this time IOC acts this way just "because we want to put Beijing at the center of this ceremony and it is better to send it from Beijing since people will come to Beijing."
In Rogge's sports career, he was an excellent yacht sailor and a member of the Belgian rugby team. Talking about his love of sports, he said sports has shaped his life as a young kid and as an Olympic athlete, "and it is still shaping my life now as a sports administrator, so sport has been a constant passion in my life. Once you get this passion you cannot lose it; it's impossible; it's too strong; it's too good." He said his family members support him very much in that and they all love sport.
Turning to the volunteer work of the 2008 Games, the president said he wished the volunteers the best of luck: "Tell them this is going to be an exciting adventure and that if they have the privilege to go to Beijing, then their dream will come true."
He thought passion is very important for volunteers: "I think the tens of thousands of volunteers who will participate in the Olympic Games will be rewarded not by money but by fulfilling their passion and by fulfilling their dream and ultimately, by realizing the dream of China. It's the same for me as a volunteer in the International Olympic committee--I'm rewarded when sport is progressing."
Mr. Rogge expressed his great interest for the Beijing Olympics official website and supported the two recent web campaigns, the "Olympic Families Tour Beijing" contest, and recruitment of 2008 Honorary Visitors of the website. He wished the ten families who won the opportunity to visit Beijing "the best of luck and tell them this is going to be an exciting adventure and that if they have the privilege to go to Beijing then their dream will come true. "
Accepting the website's invitation to be in the Honorary Visitors' list, Mr. Rogge said: "I thank you very much I'm very honored by this distinction. To all the visitors I would say the best thing that will happen in 2008 is the Beijing Olympic Games. Watch the website."