Goodbye and good riddance, thanks for nothing Mr. Rogge. Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on your way out!
I want to know what Jacques Rogge is supposed to have done for world sport while he was President of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC is the global custodian of Sport and as such we expect its leaders to do just that: lead.
When Mr. Rogge stepped down in September after 12 years in office, the world was awash with tributes for a man perceived as a retiring hero. Why? What on earth did the guy do?
The main thrust of this Olympic love-in was that he apparently rebuilt confidence after the damaging fall-out from the corruption scandal that followed the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. This is clearly rubbish… take a look at Sochi and you’ll see nothing has changed. A host city and its nation must uphold basic human rights. Ever since the Russian city was selected to host the 2014 Games, it’s become blindingly obvious that the IOC ignored these fundamental social principles when they voted.
There are many elements to this, but I’m sure the headlines you’ll be most familiar with are those highlighting Russia’s anti-gay laws, which incidentally Mr. Rogge said in his final news conference as President he was powerless to influence. When he spoke in September, 2013 that might be true, but in July 2007 he and his members had the power of veto against endorsing Sochi as the host city. Not only did they fail to use it, they effectively endorsed a social approach that laughs in the face of Olympic ideology.
Let me be clear, this is not a rant defending specific minority groups. It is though, a rant about the responsibility not to suppress. In the build up to Sochi, journalists covering stories have been harassed by the local authorities, migrant worker abuse is being investigated by the humanitarian organisation, Human Rights Watch, and the IOC has been questioned on numerous occasions about why they voted to take the Winter Olympics to a country that breaches human rights in so flagrant a manner.
So, what has Mr. Rogge achieved in his 12 years? He took over in the aftermath of one scandal and he’s left in the midst of another – one he helped create (or at the very least did nothing to prevent). I simply don’t get it. Jacques Rogge wasn’t a hero, he was the latest keeper of the keys to a door that’s permanently locked to the rest of us; and he did nothing to give us a glimpse inside.
Frankly, I don’t care what others think he might have achieved, because I’ll always come back to the same, basic question: ‘If you’re so damned clever, how can you countenance rewarding a country which disregards human rights?’ It completely defeats the object of the Olympic movement.
There’s another element that hasn’t received international focus which casts a shadow over Mr. Rogge’s tenure and, I’d suggest, his judgment.
In November 2001, the IOC proudly announced that its President Jacques Rogge had appointed his good mate, Hein Verbruggen, as Chairman of the Co-ordination Committee for the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. At that time Mr Verbruggen was President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) that was embroiled in a host of damaging doping scandals. Some of you may already be aware of our history with Mr Verbruggen, former UCI President Pat McQuaid and the previous senior management of the UCI.
In the build up to the Beijing games, Mr. Verbruggen’s position at the UCI constantly linked him to a series of ongoing doping investigations, including reports about Lance Armstrong. Mr Verbruggen persistently denied there was any issue. USADA’s Reasoned Decision that Verbruggen as UCI President stated: “I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”
The fact that those reports were finally proven years later is not the point, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that a man who was President of an organisation lurching from one doping crisis to another, was handed a powerful role (some would say THE most powerful role) by an Olympic Movement that states within its Charter that it will; “lead the fight against doping in sport.”? It seems like a reward for NOT getting his own house in order….
Mr. Verbruggen is noted as a wealthy man and there are long-standing suggestions that he used his Olympic appointment for further personal gain. There are also persistent allegations that a secret IOC investiga-tion into a long list of personal Chinese directorships (37 by my count) accrued by virtue of his appoint-ment, prompted Mr. Verbruggen’s quiet and orchestrated resignation from the IOC; ‘to seek a quieter life’ in 2008 just after the Olympics.
I’m told that only three copies of the special investigation document exist and one of them sits with Mr. Rogge. In my view he and his management skills won’t be missed.
I’m also told that Mr. Verbruggen showed his lack of suitability for a senior Olympic role, by using his IOC powers in a vendetta against the French when they were bidding for the 2012 Olympics. At the time, the UCI and the French owners of the Tour de France were in hot dispute over a pro series and I am reliably informed that Mr. Verbruggen has boasted that he was instrumental in Paris losing the right to host the Olympics to London. All of this, of course, from a man publicly supported by Mr. Rogge…
The IOC’s new President, Thomas Bach has offered optimism in his early utterances and I genuinely wish him well. What he must do in the coming years is prove his worth and lead definitive and positive change in world sport. In my view his predecessor, Jacques Rogge did nothing of the sort. Instead, he left behind an Olympic Movement that still has a seismic disconnection with modern-day society to contend with.