The Legacy of Jacques Rogge
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently elected the 9th President of the organisation at its 125th Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tomas Bach of Germany emerged the victor over three five other candidates.
The outgoing President, Jacques Rogge, of Belgium, held the top post in the IOC for a period of 12 consecutive years. He has left a mixed legacy with much less controversy than his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
By the IOC’s own standards it seemed strange that they elected someone from a relatively small country; one not known for major international sporting prowess.
There are many who thought that Jacques Rogge was the handpicked choice of Samaranch, who was perhaps the most influential of IOC Presidents and the longest serving in the history of the organisation.
Many analysts believe that Samaranch used his immense influence to garner support for Rogge.
Following his departure from the Presidency however Samaranch still appeared to have had enough influence on the organisation. However, his major disappointment may well have been when he backed Madrid’s bid to host the Olympic Games of 2016 and lost.
Evidence however seems to suggests that Rogge was eager to carve out his own niche in the history of the IOC and so he created his own legacy.
Perhaps Rogge’s most enduring legacy is his establishment of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) – Winter and Summer.
While he served as President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), the continental body of National Olympic Committees of Europe, he introduced the Olympic Youth Olympic Days (EYOD) in 1990, later renamed, Olympic Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF). There is a winter and a summer version held every other year. These events are a resounding success.
Rogge showed great interest in the youths of Europe and felt compelled to facilitate their involvement in sport as an opportunity not just for competition but also and perhaps more importantly, for engaging in Olympic Education.
The success of the European Youth Olympic Festival would have prompted Rogge to replicate the event at a global level. This eventually led to the conceptualisation of the Youth Olympic Games.
According to Rogge the Youth Olympic Games place primary emphasis on participation and less on winning. The Games are about getting the youths of the world to participate in sporting events imbued with the fundamental values of the Olympic Movement. The hope is that if as youths the athletes understand that sport is not about winning but about sharing, cooperation, establishing strong bonds of friendship and striving after excellence while respecting each other, they may, as adults, conduct themselves in a manner that facilitates international cooperation and peace.
The programme of the YOG features opportunities for the participants to have a fair mix between competitions in their respective sports and engaging in Olympic cultural and educational activities.
Additionally, the YOG features young journalists who are offered an opportunity to experience the Games and work with others from around the world.
The intention is also to encourage cities that are unable to seriously bid to host the existing Summer and Winter Olympics to seek to host the much smaller YOG.
The first edition of the Summer YOG took place in Singapore in 2010 with St Vincent and the Grenadines being represented in Athletics and Taekwondo.
There has also been one edition of the Winter YOG. The next edition of the Summer YOG will take place in 2014 in Nanjing, China, and St Vincent and the Grenadines has been allocated Universality places in three sports – Athletics, Aquatics and Volleyball. However, the different sports on the YOG Programme each has its own qualification criteria and should any Vincentian athlete qualify otherwise he/she would be eligible to participate at the event in Nanjing.
Initially some were very sceptical that with an already crammed annual calendar of events there would be a place for the YPG. Thus far however it appears that the strength of the IOC Brand is such that the Youth Olympics have already cemented their place in the international sport programme.
There seems no shortage of cities eager to bid to host the YOG.
It also appears that the sponsors and partners of the Olympic Movement already see the long-term benefits to be derived from being associated with the YOG and readily endorse the product.
The future of the YOG is therefore guaranteed from all fronts
Olympic Youth Centres
Another important legacy from Jacques Rogge is that of the establishment of Olympic Youth Development Centres.
The IOC established what is referred to as its Sport for Hope programme. This aims at utilising sport as a vehicle for assisting countries with tremendous economic and social issues. It is about using sport to give hope to the populace.
Rogge saw it as important therefore to establish Olympic Youth Development Centres in identified countries under the Sport for Hope programme. The first such Centre was opened in Luzaka, Zambia, in 2010. The facility offers training in 16 different sports and has a daily throughput of 10,000 persons utilising its resources. It houses several facilities including a sports science centre, the first in the country’s history.
The project has the support of several international federations (IF) and Samsung, one of the IOC’s major long-term partners.
The second Olympic Youth Development Centre is currently under construction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This is modelled along the same lines as the one in Lusaka and should be officially opened in 2014.
Haiti, already the largest Caribbean beneficiary of assistance from the Olympic Movement because of its chronic economic and social problems, will undoubtedly benefit from the establishment of the Centre and we can expect great things coming from there in the future.
Some countries in the Caribbean are however hopeful that in some small way Haiti can facilitate a Regional High Performance Training Centre to add to what is currently planned under the IOC project.
Fight against doping and illegal betting
While Richard Pound, IOC Member from Canada, was particularly instrumental in the fight against doping in sport under the reign of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the work was continued and taken to another level under Rogge.
The IOC established the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), which has received the support of governments around the world, largely through the overwhelming recognition by the United Nations (UN).
WADA is the undoubtedly the world leader in the fight against doping in sport and Rogge can add this to his list of achievements.
Over the 12 years of his reign Rogge has garnered increasing support in the fight against the use of performance enhancing substances by athletes.
WADA has itself closed the gap considerably on the drug cheats.
Interestingly, WADA is not just about catching drug cheats. Increasing emphasis has been placed on educating the athletes as well as the athlete’s entourage (coaches, agents etc.) to facilitate a proactive approach to this perennial problem that threatens the viability of global sport.
The work of WADA has been highly commended everywhere and the IOC can feel justly proud of having been able to convince the international community to come on board in this important project.
In the latter part of his tenure Rogge took on the challenge of illegal betting in sport. Here again his approach has been to bring all of the stakeholders together to harmonise strategies to redress this blight on international sport. The fight has only just begun and so it will be up to his successor, Bach, to carry it forward.
Jacques Rogge has been at the helm of the IOC during the worldwide financial crisis.
The IOC was not immune from the financial crisis. However, the organisation has been able to withstand the crisis and continue its appeal to global sponsors who have increased their contractual obligations.
There has been no shortage of international institutions anxious to associate themselves with the strongest brand in the world – the five interlocking rings that constitute the logo of the IOC.
While other institutions have experienced significant declines as a result of the financial crisis the IOC seems to be getting stronger.
Television rights continue to increase in its revenue generation for the organisation and the development arm, Olympic Solidarity, continues to offer increased assistance to the NOCs around the world.
Straws in the wind
Rogge’s comment on Bolt’s victory in the 100m in Beijing 2008, when the young man demolished an outstanding field of competitors was perhaps one of the major blemishes on his otherwise sound legacy.
Rogge’s comment was uncalled for. His comment was tantamount to characterising the young athlete as a bit of a show off who did not even turn to acknowledge his fellow competitors following the conclusion of the event.
Following his comment the St Vincent and the Grenadines NOC was the first to chide the IOC President in the media for his failure to understand the culture of the peoples of the Caribbean and more particularly, Jamaica.
Bolt was a playful youth who had just won his first gold medal before attaining the age of 21 and in the most commanding manner never before seen in Olympic history.
Bolt did not stop running in utter joy until he was almost at the 200m mark around the track.
His dancing was typically Caribbean in terms of a means of celebrating. He n ever disrespected any of the fellow athletes. He knew them and he also knew that they understood his performance and what it meant for him and his country as well as the youths of the world.
Rogge knew he was wrong and this message came to him from the international media.
He was also considered a little stiff and perhaps spent too much time in the shadow of Samaranch.
Rogge may also have at times allowed himself to fall prey to the seeming malady that leaves IOC Presidents behaving as though they are monarchs, a little aloof at times.
The IOC and the International Olympic Movement has move don from Jacques Rogge to Tomas Bach. Many see the choice of Bach as facilitating much continuity even though he is expected to bring his own persona to bear on the shaping of the future of the organisation and by extension, the Movement.
Rogge’s legacy will live on and the Movement would be its major beneficiary.