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IOC President Draws Positive Conclusion at the End  of Athens Olympics    - 2004-08-29

As the Athens Olympic Games came to an end Sunday, International Olympic Committee President Jacque Rogge covered a wide range of topics in his closing news conference.

IOC President Jacques Rogge stayed in the Athletes Village, talked to many of them, and said collectively they were very happy with their accommodations and the organization of the Games.

Mr. Rogge said he personally saw all 28 sports and added it was moving to see both tears of joy and tears of sorrow on the faces of the competitors.

He praised the Athens organizers, but said he has made it clear since becoming IOC chief that he would never declare any Olympic Games as the best.

"The games are a competition between athletes," said Jacques Rogge. "They are not a competition between organizing committees, and [to] say the previous one or the next one is going to be better than the actual one. This is not right. You can not compare Games that are held at different times, in different countries with different political and cultural environments. But believe me, the world and Greeks will know exactly how the Olympic movement feels and it's going to be very warm."

Mr. Rogge said while he knows attendance at the sporting events was lower than hoped for the first week, it picked up and ticket sales passed three-point-three million. He said that was more than at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and 1992 in Barcelona, which both have larger populations than Greece.

Mr. Rogge said the IOC is pleased with the progress it has made in the fight against doping, including the testing period, which now begins with the opening of the Athletes Village, two weeks before the Olympics start. And he added more out-of-competition testing will be done in the future with the cooperation of national anti-doping agencies and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

But he says even with investments in new equipment and refined testing, there will always be some who try to cheat.

"My dream that will never be fulfilled is that we could continue this very hard fight against doping, test as much as possible, with all the support of science, and have no positive tests. But this is naivety. This would never occur," he said. "You know you have 10,500 athletes, and there are not 10,500 saints in the Olympic Village."

By Sunday, there were 22 positive doping cases in Athens, compared to 11 four years ago at the Sydney Olympics.

Mr. Rogge said the IOC was also concerned about some of the judging problems at the Athens Olympics which came in gymnastics, equestrian, fencing and taekwondo. He said the IOC plans to speak the to sports federations and, as in the past, issues usually get resolved, like they have been in boxing and figure skating.

"It is clear, of course that we will never, never be able to avoid any controversy in judging, because there is always a human element, and humans can fail and sometimes make errors," he said.

Mr. Rogge added that the IOC will always respect the final judgments of the individual sports federations, except when there is corruption, like in the figure skating judging two years ago in Salt Lake City.

As for the sporting results at the Athens Olympics, the IOC president called this the awakening of Asia.

"You see the major progress of China. You see the extraordinary success of Japan. You see excellence from Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and this is really the games where Asia has awakened and I believe that this is a very strong sign that Asia will be at full strength for the Beijing games in four years time," said Mr. Rogge. "And I think that what I call the traditional strong nations that dominate the scene now will have to work extremely hard in the future to be able to maintain their rank. And for the IOC this is a very pleasant prospect that new nations are coming, that new continents are emerging and definitely I think this is a very important consequence."

IOC President Jacques Rogge said despite the concerns leading up to the games on readiness and security issues, the Athens Olympics were a major success and the Greek organizers should be proud of their achievement.