President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge: Challenges before IOC will not disappear
President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge, who will leave his post on September 10, 2013, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the 12 years of his IOC presidency, challenges that still face the Olympic Movement and the development of sports in Russia.Question: You have just been to Russia. What has changed in the sports industry and government-sport relations in Russia over last 12 years?
Answer: I believe the IOC is in good shape. Under my watch, the quality of the Games I have overseen have been excellent, with three summer and winter editions (2002 Salt Lake City, 2004 Athens, 2006 Torino, 2008 Beijing, 2010 Vancouver, London 2012). Moreover, I am proud of the success of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), the first edition of the YOG in Singapore in 2010 and first edition of the Winter YOG in Innsbruck last year. The media coverage of the YOG was far greater than I had anticipated. I am delighted that the YOG now enjoys its own identity.
We have fought hard for values: the fight against doping and supporting WADA and the fight against illegal betting in sport, which is a new threat and did not exist before. We can be reassured by our strong financial situation, the IOC has been able to redistribute 40% more money to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) than before. We have a special relationship with the United Nations for social responsibility and support to humanitarian causes - the IOC has been accepted as an observer to the UN, which is a very prestigious and rare appointment.
Q.: What are the main unsolved problems before the Olympic Movement?
A.: I would not say that there are unresolved problems, more ongoing challenges. I mentioned the fight against doping and irregular and illegal betting, which the Olympic movement will need to continue to remain vigilant against. We work continuously on a number of issues, including increasing revenues and our reserves, producing and refining programs designed to make hosting the games easier and more cost-efficient, and placing sport at the service of humanity to promote health, education, etc. The Olympic Games are a highly complicated event to stage, as you know - the biggest concerted undertaking most host cities will ever be involved with. There are of course unforeseen challenges that can occur. What we know is that the challenges will not disappear - it is important for us to be prepared, anticipate them as much as possible and work as hard as ever to maintain the health and vitality of the Olympic Movement.
Q.: What do you think, for the moment, is sports winning or losing the battle against doping?
A.: There will unfortunately always be cheats and those that believe they can beat the system. The fight against doping is a top priority for the IOC, which has established a zero-tolerance policy to combat cheating and to punish anyone responsible for using or providing doping products. We have stepped up the number of tests from 2,359 at Sydney 2000 to a record 5,000 tests during London 2012. The IOC does not hesitate to call on the support and expertise of government authorities and applies sanctions not only to athletes found guilty of doping but also to members of their entourage, including coaches, doctors, etc. We store samples for up to eight years after each edition of the games, so we can retest samples when new tests are available - this strategy has been successful and many medalists have been caught. With advances in science and more tests than ever before, including more out-of-competition, unannounced and targeted testing, it is far more difficult to dope today than it used to be. But of course much work still needs to be done and we will continue to do everything we can to protect the integrity of sport.
Q.: You have been the IOC president for 12 years. What do you consider as your main achievement?
A.: Since I became IOC President in 2001, we have continued to enjoy a healthy relationship with the National Olympic Committee of Russia. Since Sochi was elected in 2007 as host city of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, we have also built a strong relationship with the local Organizing Committee, the governments of Russia at all levels and of course President Putin.
Clearly Russia has grown into a leading destination for sports organizations to hold their events. This includes the Olympic Games, FIFA, Formula 1, and many other world championships. They have shown, and continue to show, that they are capable of hosting the world‘s biggest sporting events. Hosting the 2014 Olympic Games has enabled Russia to create its first ever elite winter sports hub, and is turning Sochi into a world-class, year-round business, tourist and athletic destination. The sports venues will be effectively used after the Games. Some of the venues will be restructured for different functions; others will be dismantled and moved to other cities. The games are acting as a powerful catalyst to develop key infrastructure. For example, 47 transport infrastructure sites have been modernized, over 367 kilometers of roads and bridges have been developed and over 200 kilometers of railways developed. The games are creating employment. So far, the Olympic project has generated tens of thousands of new jobs. For the first time in Russia, a system of ‘green standards‘ will be used during the construction of Olympic venues. Sochi will set an example of sustainable development for other cities in Russia to follow. The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) has been created - a unique higher education institute designed to train a new generation of highly qualified sports managers to international standards. In addition, thanks to the Olympic Games, a legal framework for volunteering has been created in Russia, and volunteering is starting to grow across the country. There are many changes taking place that will benefit the region and citizens for generations to come.
Q.: What are you thinking about doing after September 10, 2013? Are you going to write memoirs?
A.: I am looking forward to having time to practice more sports and of course to spending quality time with my family and watch my grandchildren play sports and drive them to school. I have a pile of books that I have been meaning to read and DVDs to watch but with my extensive schedule have been unable to do so. There are a number of art galleries and exhibitions I would like to attend as I have a keen interest in modern art. I also have a long list of conferences to attend on the values of sports and I will be serving on a couple of boards for charities and social organisations.
With regard to my memoirs, I will certainly catalogue them for archival purposes. I will make one clean version of my mandate that I will donate to the Olympic Museum. Of course, I will still be following sport as it is a great passion of mine. I look forward to attending sporting events, in particular the Olympic Games, and enjoy them in a different way - purely as a spectator and fan.