Doping and violence threaten the future of sports

INTERVIEW WITH IOC PRESIDENT

• I would love to see Olympic Games in Africa or Latin America

• Danger of elitist professional groups

• I’m against repeated visits to candidate cities

• Athens will organize magnificent Games

BY MIGUEL HERNANDEZ (Special for Granma International)

HAVANDA (April 29, 2002) – LAST May 2, Belgian Jacques Rogge celebrated his 60th birthday with the firm intention of making the most of every day, every minute, to advance his incomparable program, in his new position as head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

On the eve of his birthday, 10 months after being elected in Moscow to replace the legendary Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president squeezed time out of his tight agenda to respond to some questions in the peaceful Swiss city of Lausanne.

What do you see as the gravest problems in world sports?

These days, doping constitutes a real threat to the credibility of sports and their future. And the same could be said of violence in sports, the specter of which is stalking the stadiums, in complete contradiction to the Olympian ideal. We also have to ensure that the Games are kept to a reasonable size, so that smaller cities can organize Olympics one day without altering their quality or losing our sponsors’ interest. Other important IOC concerns are education via sports, which would allow for shared values of fair play and solidarity among youth from all over the world; as well as the advancement of women and the efficiency of the Olympic movement, which implies a concern for equality in the heart of the sporting organizations.

Havana has once more expressed its dream of organizing an edition of the Olympics and will apply for the 2012 Games. What message would you send to the Cuban authorities?

Organizing the Olympic Games continues to constitute a major challenge for any city; it is an immense undertaking and one has to be aware of that when indicating a desire to put oneself forward as a candidate. The IOC is constantly trying to reduce the Games’ costs and to maintain them at a reasonable size, so that smaller cities can organize them. I would love it if one day the Olympic Games could be organized in Africa or in Latin America again.

Do you really think that the spirit of the Olympic Truce was respected during the Salt Lake Games? Were they too lavish for President Rogge’s philosophy?

In its origins, the tradition of the Truce consisted of avoiding armed conflicts before the Games, to guarantee athletes’ security during travel. Pierre de Coubertin added a pacifist element, asking for the suspension of conflicts throughout the whole duration of the Games, for the sake of an ideal of peace. It is a tradition that I have respected in relation to the Salt Lake City Games, but what one shouldn’t forget is that the IOC cannot attempt to secure peace in the world. The IOC is a sporting organization, not a political one.

As for the lavishness of the Games, they have to continue being a celebration that will attract the world’s athletes and inspire them to participate. The Salt Lake City Games were wonderfully organized and developed in line with the Olympic philosophy.

You have said that professional sports continue to endanger the very structures of the federations. How can the IOC confront this threat?

Indeed, the elite groups, such as the Euro basketball league or the Group of 14 [the most powerful European soccer clubs] do pose a danger, because they don’t redistribute resources at the base, as the federations do. The solution is to prohibit private negotiations in the heart of those leagues. This redistribution work is the competence of the federations, with the object of assuring an equality of financial resources.

What agreements do you anticipate from the IOC Special Session in Mexico this November?

The agenda includes important issues, principally the follow-up on reforms and the study of the Games program. The Athens 2004 program will be the equivalent to that of Sydney (28 sports, 300 events). The commission created for this is currently studying the program for the Olympic Games in Beijing and the pertinent agreements will be adopted, as well as recommendations being made in the reform process. Naturally, it would be premature to pronounce on it but personally, I am not in favor of repeated visits to candidate cities.

Strong pressure is continuing in Ibero-America to have Spanish become an official IOC language. Would you agree to that?

The Olympic Charter stipulated that the two IOC official languages are French, the language of its founding, and English, for obvious reasons. President Samaranch gave Spanish a very special place in the organization. The inclusion of another official language, like any modification of the Olympic Charter, is the competency of the IOC session and would have to be adopted by it.

What is your principal concern in relation to Athens 2004?

The main one in reference to the Olympic Games is that the athletes can participate in the best conditions possible. Denis Oswald, who has replaced me as president of the coordinating committee for the 2004 Games, is following this matter very closely and has assured me that there have been notable advances, so that everything will be ready on time. Personally, I believe that Athens will organize magnificent Games.

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