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IOC chief Rogge lands in hot water

By Brian Williams
June 12, 2004 10:45 IST
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International Olympic chief Jacques Rogge was in hot water again on Saturday after suggesting Greece might not stage the best Games ever in Athens this August.

Rogge, who in the past week has fired an earlier broadside at Athens as well as upsetting top American sprinter Marion Jones on a separate issue, made the comments in an Australian television interview that enraged Greek media.

Details of the interview were released by Channel Nine on its website ahead of broadcast on Sunday. A Channel Nine spokesman confirmed the remarks in the interview.

Recalling the 1997 bidding that led to Athens winning this year's Games, Rogge said the International Olympic Committee took a gamble in awarding the Games to Greece when Rome would have been the easier choice.

"We took the calculated gamble in 1997 with a much-improved Athens bid ... we'd not take the easy way. The easy way would have been to vote for Rome," Rogge said.

"Rome was a much bigger city and bigger country, but I think in terms of values, return to the origin and in terms of saying thank you to the Greeks who invented the sport 3000 years ago, then it was worthwhile."

However, the remark that most upset Greeks, already sensitive after a barrage of international criticism about delays in Games preparations, was a Rogge forecast of what he might say at the closing ceremony of the Athens Games on August 29.

"Well, I might start by saying that these were not the best ever games, but...," Rogge said.


After Rogge's remarks were widely broadcast by Greek television stations, Athens Games organisers rushed to defuse the row.

"President Rogge has helped a lot in the preparation of the Olympic Games. He knows, as does the public, that the success of the Games will be decided by what happens between the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony," Gianna Angelopoulos, head of the Athens Games Organising Committee, said.

Answering the comments about Rome, she added: "Greece got the right to stage the Games because it had the best bid and the best offer. Full stop."

Earlier this week, organisers had again turned the other cheek when Rogge said in a Belgian newspaper interview that Athens alone was to blame for overspending and delayed preparations.

In a weekend interview with Belgium's Le Loir newspaper, Rogge, a Belgian, had said Greece "brought it on themselves" an overspend of at least one billion dollars to stage the Games.

Greek newspapers had described his remarks then as "acid" and "poisonous".

Just days earlier, top American sprinter Marion Jones had denounced another Rogge interview with Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in which he said the Olympic gold medallist showed poor judgement in becoming involved with people linked to doping scandals.

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