Olympic chief praises Beijing games

Jacques Rogge dodges political and human rights questions as games come to a close.

    The IOC boss said China had delivered a "fantastic" Olympics [GALLO/GETTY]

    Rogge was speaking as Olympic organisers prepared to bring down the curtain on the 29th Summer games, promising another spectacular ceremony on Sunday night to hand over the Olympic baton to London, the host of the next games in 2012.


    The IOC boss, who has doggedly stuck to the standard line that the Olympics are not a stage for political statements, praised the comradeship shown between shooting medalists Natalia Paderina of Russia and Georgia's Nino Salukvadze.

    Natalia Paderina and Salukvadze won silver and bronze medals respectively in the women's 10m air pistol competition.

    "I think this kind of sportsmanship and fair play and brotherhood is remarkable," said Rogge.

    Rogge praised the "fair play" shown by Russian and Georgian medalists [GALLO/GETTY]
    The IOC chief however sidestepped questions regarding the Chinese government's approach to human rights, protesters, and promises to allow complete internet access.

    Rogge did though call on China to maintain greater freedoms for foreign media after the end of the Beijing games.

    Under guidelines introduced in January last year, foreign journalists have been free to conduct interviews with consenting Chinese parties, rather than having to first seek government permission.

    Journalists are also allowed to report outside the city for which they are accredited.

    But the regulations are officially due to end in October, when the Olympics and subsequent Paralympics are over.

    Rogge said he had raised the matter with Chinese officials who had given "indications" that the rules might be extended.

    "The regulations might not be perfect but they are a sea-change compared to the situation before. We hope that they will continue," he said.

    Media freedoms

    Media freedom groups however have criticised the Chinese government pointing to several examples of what they say was interference against the foreign media during the Games.

    Rogge said he had urged China to extend media freedom laws [GALLO/GETTY] 
    "The host government has not lived up to its Olympic promise that the media will be completely free to report on all aspects of China," The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said in a statement, citing more than 30 cases of reporting interference in recent weeks.

    Reporters Without Borders – a group highly critical of the Chinese government - said that rather than the "sea change" Rogge referred to, the Olympics had been a disaster for freedom of expression in China.

    "As we feared, the Beijing Olympic Games have been a period conducive to arrests, convictions, censorship, surveillance and harassment of more than 100 journalists, bloggers and dissidents," Robert Ménard, the group's secretary-general, said.

    "We had a splendid village, we had state of the art venues, we had impeccable competition"

    Jacques Rogge,
    head of IOC

    Rogge himself determinedly kept the focus squarely on the competitions, praising the achievements of the two "icons of the games" – US swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

    Phelps smashed Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of the most golds at a single games, and will take home eight medals from Beijing. Bolt meanwhile completed a rare 100m-200m sprint double and helped Jamaica to the 4x100 relay crown - all in world-record times

    Their records breaking appearances in Beijing had helped push up Olympic TV audience ratings around the world, a fact Rogge said was "very important" for the Olympic movement.

    'Impeccable competition'

    Overall, the IOC boss said, "we had a splendid village, we had state of the art venues, we had impeccable competition."

    He noted that more than 40 world records were set and more than 100 Olympic records broken during the fortnight of the games.

    Bolt's run of golds has helped lift Olympic TV ratings around the world  [GALLO/GETTY]
    But he refused to be drawn on the controversial question of who had topped the medal table –  whether the number of golds or total number of all medals carried the most weight.

    As the competition wound up on Sunday, China had locked up the gold medal tally by an impressive margin, but the always powerful United States were claiming superiority on total medals.

    "We take no position on that," Rogge said, noting instead that Beijing had seen an increase in the number of countries represented in the medals table, up to 86 from 74 in Athens four years ago.

    "This is pleasing because this is really a proof of the universality of the games," he said.

    "The games is not only about winning... It's about the struggle of every athlete every day to achieve his or her limits and having this resilience and saying I will not give up. For me, that's fantastic."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    How being rejected by my father a second time helped me heal

    How being rejected by my father a second time helped me heal

    He told me horror stories about my biological mother, told me he wanted to do better and then stopped speaking to me.

    'It ruined my life': School closures in Kenya lead to rise in FGM

    'It ruined my life': School closures in Kenya lead to rise in FGM

    With classrooms closed to curb coronavirus, girls are more at risk of FGM, teenage pregnancy and child marriage.

    'It takes a village to kill a child': Uganda's hidden children

    'It takes a village to kill a child': Uganda's hidden children

    Faced with stigma and abuse, many children with disabilities are hidden indoors, with few options for specialised care.