Olympic chief Jacques Rogge thinks the Beijing Olympics will be a significant
force for good in China, but cannot be expected to resolve all the issues facing
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said, however,
that it was "absolutely legitimate" for non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
and human rights groups to bring attention to their causes both now and at Games
"We believe the Games are going to move ahead the agenda of the social and
human rights as far as possible, the Games are going to be a force for good. But
the Games are not a panacea," Rogge told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
This week's start of the one-year countdown to the Games has brought with it
the release of several reports from pressure groups, many calling on the IOC to
demand action from the Chinese on issues such as media freedom and political
"One should not forget that we are a sports organisation," Rogge said. "We
are not a government, we are not the representative of all the NGOs of the
"We respect their point of view, we stand for human rights, we stand for
strict social values, but we are only a sports organisation."
Rogge said he "could not be more happy" about the state of preparations in
Beijing, especially in the fundamental aspects of running the Games such as
"They are well ahead of schedule, the infrastructure is there, there is still
a little bit of work to do on the Olympic Stadium but that will be ready in
March," he said.
"Since I've been involved in Games preparations, which is since Sydney, they
are the best prepared of all," he added.
As Beijing witnessed another day of heavy smog, Rogge said his main concern
was the environment and particularly air pollution in the Chinese capital.
But he was confident that measures undertaken by the Beijing government to
rid the city of pollution over the last few years and special measures in August
next year would deliver clean air.
"There is a positive trend and I really do hope and believe that this
positive trend will continue," he said.
"They still have a full year to run. I have confidence that their strategy
will yield success. I'm optimistic for Games time."
Indeed, Rogge hopes a change in the way the Chinese approach environmental
issues will be one of the "intangible" legacies of the Games.
"The intangible is the acceptance of procedures, norms and standards that
were not here before, especially in the field of the environment," he said.
A sporting legacy would come as a result of the Sport for All programme in
China, a "mind-blowing" project that was reaching "hundreds of millions" of
people, he said.
FIFTH OF MANKIND
He also foresaw benefits for the Olympic movement.
"We are bringing the Olympics to one-fifth of mankind, we have an education
programme based on sport and Olympic values in no less than 500,000 schools, we
are hoping 400 million children will benefit from this," he said.
One of the possible blights of any sporting event in the modern era is
doping, and Rogge said the series of scandals at the Tour de France was a timely
reminder for the IOC.
"I expect some positive cases in Beijing, that would be the sign that our
testing is accurate, that our testing is efficient and that we are cleaning up
the Games and that we are kicking out the cheats," he said.
"There are still some loopholes but one has to say that it is extremely
difficult to cheat and to get away with it."
The Belgian, who competed in sailing at three Olympic Games, clearly has
little time for discussions over whether the U.S. or China will top the medals
table next August.
"The spirit of the Olympic Games ... is not about nations, it's not about
continents, it's not about supremacy," he said.
"It's about the pursuit of excellence by individuals who train very hard for
that and do that within the Olympic spirit of fair play, brotherhood."
Asked how he would like the Beijing Games to go down in history, the
65-year-old orthopaedic surgeon said: "I would like the Games to be held in
peace, in maximum security, with the least number of doping cases possible. And
definitely with great athletic prowess, with great champions emerging because
that's the great magic of the Games.
"And if at the same time we can have a situation where the world at large
discovers China, and it's values and its assets, then I will be a very happy