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01 Oct 2009
IOC News , Olympic Congress 2009

“More than just a vote for a Host City” - IOC President Jacques Rogge on the Olympic Congress and the challenges for the Olympic Movement

Ahead of the Olympic Congress starting this Friday in the Danish capital, IOC President Jacques Rogge gave his views on what he wants to achieve in Copenhagen and what he sees as the most important challenges lying ahead for the Olympic Movement. His ideas were published by 16 major newspapers on all five continents.

In a moment of tension and suspense, the International Olympic Committee will convene in Copenhagen next Friday (2 Oct.) to select a host city for the 2016 Olympic Games. The choice of Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro or Madrid will reverberate around the world. The winner will be entrusted to deliver one of only a handful of truly global events that has the ability to bring together the vast majority of humanity in a celebration not just of sporting success, but also of human achievement.

It is an important decision, and of course the “moment of truth” will be beamed live into many millions of homes and delivered to front pages of newspapers around the world. It will no doubt be just as intense as London’s narrow victory over Paris four years ago. But, as captivating and entertaining as this whole process is – it is only a part in a wider story. Indeed, the Olympic Movement will confront many other significant issues in Copenhagen once the four bidding cities have packed up and left town, issues that could have a more lasting impact on the Games and on society. The host city vote is merely a part of a much larger gathering known as the Olympic Congress.


An Olympic Congress is a rare and special event, occurring only about once a decade. The first Congress, held in Paris in 1894, established the modern Olympic Games. The 2009 Congress is the first in 15 years and the first of this new millennium. Its role is to help guide the Olympic Movement through a future that holds both great promise and significant peril. If it is successful it will help ensure the longevity and the relevance of what is probably one of the most significant global cultural activities in which the vast majority of humanity participates in some form or another. It will help ensure that future city choices will remain just as fiercely contested.


The organisation that came to life 115 years ago to promote Olympic values is stronger than ever, with 205 National Olympic Committees spread across every continent. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games set new records for global participation, global viewership and the quality of the competition.


But we also face some difficult challenges.


The theme of this year’s Congress is “The Olympic Movement in Society.” It is a broad topic and captures the reality that sport is an integral part of society, not something above and beyond it. Indeed it was the founder of our modern movement, Pierre de Coubertin, who said that “sporting competition without values/culture is simply a military parade”. Our goal is to place sport at the service of humanity and provide a positive influence on society – and through sport to harness that which is best in our society and counter that which is malign.  


Drug abuse and doping remains a serious threat to the integrity of sport and to the health and safety of athletes, as it is to a wider society. We have made a lot of progress in our effort to deter and detect cheaters. It is a never-ending battle, and we must remain vigilant. Education will help young athletes avoid the dangers of doping. Enforcement will ensure we catch and punish cheats.


Strict testing regimes, including tests outside the actual competition period, are critical to our effort against doping. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of athletes who play by the rules have to undergo this inconvenience. It is the price they pay to ensure fair competition.


I have no illusions. This is not a battle that will end with a declaration of victory. Completely beating doping and cheating in sport is as unlikely as being able to declare the end of all crime in society – it will be with us as long as sport is with us. But like the fight against crime, it is a battle worth fighting and one where I believe we are gaining ground. But just as constant vigilance is the price of freedom; so too with doping, constant vigilance and the need to outstrip the cunning of the cheats is a constant battle.


Youth inactivity is another threat to sport and health. In today’s world, sport faces strong competition for the attention and interest of young people, especially in developed countries. We can see the results in the rising rates of youth obesity.


Sharing the joy of sport with young people and encouraging their participation has been a core mission of the Olympic Movement from the very beginning. But though the goal remains the same, sometimes the challenges are different. To be sure, there are still many parts of the world where our attempt to bring sport and sporting values to the population is still a fight against deprivation, but it is clear that in the future we also face competition that has the ability to turn young people away from the wonderful values that sport inspires and the physical benefits it can bring. Elsewhere in the world we often find ourselves trying to make the Olympic values relevant in the face of over abundance and a surfeit of choice. To this end, next August, we’ll try a new approach to engage young people with the launch of the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. It’s not a mini-Olympic Games. It’s an event that combines sport, education and cultural experiences to promote healthy lifestyles and the Olympic values of fair play, solidarity, respect and friendship.


We will spend considerable time in Copenhagen seeking other ways to put the Olympic values into action.


We will examine the governance of our movement to improve transparency and accountability; we will review the role of the Olympic Games in promoting values; we will work on keeping the Games relevant and the cost and size of the events; and we will discuss ways in which we can do more to support sport in developing nations; and above all we will consider our obligations to athletes.


We have taken a series of steps in recent years to help athletes make the transition from competition to private and professional life, but we have to do more. Athletes are the heart of our movement. Their dedication, self-discipline, fair play and respect for competitors are a powerful example for all of us.


They give us their best. We have a responsibility to ensure that they have an opportunity to live full, productive lives beyond the field of competition and the cheering of spectators.


These debates will start the day after the city to host the 2016 Games is chosen. I cannot predict the result of that vote, so I am as eager as anyone to find out which city will prevail. It will be exciting, but it is not the end of the story in Copenhagen nor for the Olympic family.


The debates will help determine whether the Olympic Movement can remain relevant and viable through another century. The founders of the modern Olympic Movement in the 19th century had to bring the Games and its values up to date when they re-founded the Games. Our task is no less important if we are to reap the huge benefits that the Olympic Games can bring to all humanity.



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