International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge says the IOC is extremely pleased by the success of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mr. Rogge described them as "the athletes' games, despite some controversies."
IOC President Jacgue Rogge, a former Olympic athlete himself, stayed in the Olympic athletes village here, and he said all the athletes he spoke to expressed their joy and satisfaction with the organization and the staging of these games.
While he acknowledged security was tight as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Rogge said the weather cooperated, technology worked, transportation was good, the volunteers were great, and the games were popular, with high television ratings all over the world. "And the games themselves were a financial success, so that also is important because that will leave a legacy to the city and also to the legacy to U.S. sports," he says.
Mr. Rogge said the IOC has made major progress in its efforts to catch those using illegal drugs. "The IOC has engaged a stronger fight against doping. We have implemented double the tests on athletes than in previous games," says Mr. Rogge. "We could find the new drug on the market, a drug that's only existing for three months for normal use, and already athletes were trying to use it and were using it. And we're very glad we have closed this loophole as soon as possible."
Mr. Rogge was referring to the drug NESP, an anemia drug which increases the production of red blood cells. On the final day of the Olympics, it was announced that three cross country skiers were caught using the performance enhancing substance. One from Russia, Larissa Lazutina, and one from Spain, Johann Muehlegg, were each stripped of a gold medal. The third, Russian Olga Danilova, had not won a medal but was banned from the games.
Rogge shared his thoughts on athletes like Lazutina and Muehlegg, who are legally allowed to keep the Olympic medals they won earlier before the positive drug tests. "To be a champion you have to respect fair play, refuse doping," he says. "If you cross the finish line first, you're the winner, but you'll never be the champion if you do not respect the rules against doping, etcetera."
Mr. Rogge says even with the protests and criticisms here over some of the judging, he does not think the Olympics have become politicized. This, after the Russian Olympic Committee had threatened to leave the games over what it called biased judging against its athletes. "There's never been an attack of the Russian delegations against any country," he says. "What they have criticized is the quality of judging. So it's not a political issue."
In the case of awarding a second gold medal in pairs figure skating to the Canadians after the Russians had won, Mr. Rogge said they did not wait for the end of a special inquiry because the IOC had received enough information for a decision. "What is beyond any doubt is that the judging was manipulated. Who is responsible for it is not an issue. Who were the culprits, is not, for us, an issue," says Mr. Rogge. "But what is sure and what had been guaranteed to us, or certified to us, by ISU [International Skating Union] is that the judgment was not fair. And that that is the point that mattered for us, because the athletes were penalized by that."
He said eventually the inquiry will reveal who is responsible. Finally, IOC President Jacque Rogge said he hopes people will remember the athletes from these games and not the controversies. "The games are about the athletes," he says. "The games are not about the IOC, not about the media, not about government or organizers. What is important is our competitions, they go well, superb venues, fantastic results, that's what we have to remember."
Now the IOC's focus will turn to the next Olympics, the summer games in Athens, Greece, in 2004.