"Mr Clean" takes the helm at the IOC

Jacques Rogge's quick election surprised many observers Keystone

The hand of outgoing president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, could be detected in the election of Jacques Rogge as the new head of the International Olympic Committee. Rogge gained a reputation as "Mr Clean" during the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

This content was published on July 16, 2001 - 12:20

Rogge, considered a safe pair of hands who had the tacit backing of Samaranch, was the favourite to succeed the Spaniard, but his overwhelming victory in only the second round of voting at the IOC session in Moscow took many by surprise.

The Belgian surgeon, a former world sailing champion, defeated Kim Un-yong of South Korea, Dick Pound of Canada, Pal Schmitt of Hungary and Anita DeFrantz of the United States.

Rogge, who speaks five languages, will be the eighth president in the Lausanne-based IOC's 107-year history. He is the second Belgian and seventh European to head the organisation. He will serve an eight-year term, after which he can seek a four-year extension to his mandate.

Analysts say Samaranch, who is stepping down after 21 years at the head of the Olympic movement, regards Rogge as a guarantee of continuity and sound management. It is not yet clear if he intends to adopt a more reformist approach than his predecessor.

Unlike Pound and Kim, the other frontrunners in the race, Rogge had made few political enemies, and, unlike Kim, had not been tarnished by the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Although he only joined the IOC in 1991, he became a member of the executive board in 1998, and heads the European Olympic Committees. He has been the IOC coordinator of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Games, as well as vice chairman of the IOC's anti-doping panel.

The election took place in the same Moscow hall where Samaranch was elected in 1980. Since then, the 81-year-old Catalan has transformed the Olympics from a near-bankrupt sporting body riven by political divisions into an immensely powerful organisation. Nevertheless, in recent years the IOC has been rocked by allegations of corruption.

To that might be added charges of nepotism. Among the people elected as a member of the committee was Samaranch's son, also called Juan Antonio.

Looking to the future, Rogge is faced with a number challenges. The first may arrive in the form of embarrassing revelations during the trial in Utah of former Salt Lake City bid executives indicted in connection with the bribery scandal. Proceedings are due to get under way on July 30.

The next two summer games - in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008 - also have the potential to give Rogge headaches - the former because of doubts about whether the facilities will be ready in time, the second because of concerns of human rights abuses by the Chinese government.

During his mandate, the new IOC chief will also have the task of renegotiating television rights with the big American channels, streamlining the costly and at times still amateurish IOC administration.

Finally, Rogge's biggest problem may be the shadow that his predecessor casts over him. Samaranch, as honorary life president, can sit in on IOC executive meetings, and while he will not be able to vote, his influence will be all-pervasive.

The only candidate not chosen was the former Swiss minister of defence and sport, Adolf Ogi, who had the backing of Samaranch and the executive committee. Ogi, currently the special United Nations ambassador for sport and peace, was rejected by 59 to 46 votes, with four abstentions.

The vote constitutes a major snub for Ogi, as it is highly unusual for a nomination for membership to be rejected.

The apparent reason for the snub is that Ogi would have been the sixth Swiss member of the IOC, considered a disproportionate number for the size of country. There was also criticism of Ogi, because he is only honorary president of the Swiss Olympic Committee.

Samaranch argued that Ogi would have provided a useful link between the IOC and the UN.

by Roy Probert

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