Rogge reminisces in Athens; looks forward to Beijing
Four years on from the ‘Unforgettable, Dream Games’ in Athens, the International Olympic Committee is back in the Greek capital for a series of meetings which kicked off Tuesday evening with an Opening Ceremony of the SportAccord Convention at the Athens Concert Hall.
Speaking at the Opening, IOC President Jacques Rogge expressed his happiness at returning to the city saying, “I am delighted to be back in Athens, the spiritual home of the Olympic Movement. This city was transformed by the 2004 Olympic Games. Everywhere you look, you see the legacy of improvements to infrastructure, transport, roads and – best of all –there are new sports facilities and a new confidence in the Greek people.”
Having reminisced about the successful Olympic Games in 2004, Rogge looked to Beijing. “In a few short weeks many of you will join me in Beijing for the Games of the 29th Olympiad,” he said, “one of the most eagerly anticipated Games in Olympic history. The world will be watching to see if these Games become a transforming event for the most populous nation on earth, a country with a rich tradition, a glorious culture and a bright future. I am pleased to report that preparations for Beijing 2008 are going well. In fact, most of the work has now been completed — ahead of schedule! It’s a great sign of exciting things to come.”
The IOC President spoke also about the recent earthquake that has devastated the Sichuan region of China. “The entire world mourns the lost lives and marvels at the resilience, courage and determination of the survivors. The IOC and our Olympic Partners have joined organizations, governments and individual citizens from around the world in supporting the rescue efforts. The global response to the earthquake is another reminder that our planet is becoming a smaller place. Because of technology, human connections are no longer constrained by time, distance or national boundaries. Human connections are what the Olympic Movement is all about. The Olympic Games bring people around the globe together – athletes, spectators, host citizens – to celebrate their common humanity in an atmosphere of mutual respect, fair play and friendship.”
Rogge said he was looking forward to the start of this summer’s Olympic Games.
“The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will be an historic event, even by Olympic standards, and I am eager for them to start. For 16 days in August, the eyes of the world will be on China. Over 30,000 media, some 2.4 million spectators and 4 billion television viewers will experience the thrill of world-class athletic competition, with all the drama, jubilation and heartbreak that it entails. Inside the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube and other Olympic venues, the focus will rightfully be on the athletes, many of whom have spent years training to get to Beijing. But the journalists, spectators and television viewers will also learn about China - about its culture, about its history and about the challenges it faces as a nation in transition. We have seen this happening already. This is one of the transformative powers of sport and the Olympic Games.”
The IOC’s Executive Board will hold meetings in parallel with the annual international sports convention, known as SportAccord, that brings together representatives from the 100 International Sports Federations affiliated to GAISF (General Association of International Sports Federations), ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations) and AIOWF (Association of the International Olympic Winter Sports Federations).