By Brian Cazeneuve
IOC president Jacques Rogge's calendar looked like a traffic bottleneck, a mishmash of intersecting entries and sideways scribbles in the margins. "I have no room for doodling," Rogge (pronounced ROH-ga) said during a trip to New York City. And no time for dawdling. While visiting media and Olympic sponsors in the U.S., he held 19 meetings in nine cities over four days.
In his first three months on the job, Rogge, 59, a retired orthopedic surgeon, has allayed suspicions that he would be a clone of Juan Antonio Samaranch, his predecessor and supporter. He has eschewed the title Your Excellency that Samaranch so enjoyed, and as if to highlight his background as an Olympian (a credential Samaranch lacked), the former world champion sailor said that in Salt Lake City in February he'll live at the Olympic Village -- something he did three times as an athlete and five more as an official with the Belgian team. A month into his presidency, Rogge toured Games venues in Utah, a place Samaranch avoided after the Salt Lake bidding scandal broke in 1999.
Before his election, Rogge pledged candor on any Olympic-related topic, and in a meeting with SI last week, he spelled out his positions on some of those issues.
Doping Last summer the IOC released initial results of its testing of 600 over-the-counter nutritional supplements, showing that 20% of them contained banned drugs, including steroids. Rogge rejects Samaranch's suggestion that the IOC might be better off removing some substances from its lengthy banned list. "With all due respect to Juan Antonio Samaranch, he's not aware of the reality of sports medicine and doping," Rogge said, implying that athletes would exploit any newfound leniency. "If you test positive for contaminated food supplements, you'll hang for them."
Swifter, higher, smaller? Rogge would like to see South American and African nations host the Olympics but thinks the Games have become too big and expensive for cities on those continents. He points out that the number of credentials issued to athletes, officials, journalists, volunteers and support staff grew from 130,000 in Barcelona in 1992 to 185,000 last year in Sydney. Only about 10,000 of that number in Sydney were athletes, and Rogge thinks personnel cuts can be made in other areas without harming the quality of the Games. He'd also like to see smaller venues -- future bid cities shouldn't feel they need to build an 18,000-seat swim stadium as Sydney did. "We don't want to leave white elephants," he says.
As for events, 300 gold medals were awarded in Sydney. Rogge doesn't anticipate that the IOC will add sports without eliminating subcategories in others -- boxing, for instance, will lose one weight class and men's wrestling will give up two to accommodate women's wrestling for 2004. Cutting events outright is tricky. While Americans might wonder what badminton is doing in the Games, Rogge points to its huge popularity in Southeast Asia as justification for its inclusion.
New York 2012 While recognizing the generosity behind the gesture, Rogge says he would not support an offer from the mayor of Rome to withdraw his city's bid for the 2012 Games if the USOC picks New York as its candidate city. "New York would be fantastic," Rogge said, "but we must complete the bid process to ensure that the athletes get the most qualified host. New York must win on its own merit, not because of sympathy or condolences."
Issue date: October 22, 2001
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