The Associated Press has announced that, after twelve years as head of the International Olympic Committee, Count Jacques Rogge is stepping down next Tuesday. He leaves before the IOC faces some of its worst problems in over a decade between the Sochi and the Rio Olympics.
Rogge is 71 and has been in declining health. Despite a reputation for taking a hard line against doping and ethics violations, Rogge has come under harsh criticism recently for his lenient attitudes towards Russia’s anti-gay policies.
Russia has more problems than just their anti-gay record. Recently, it has come to light that Russia has been all but using slave labor to build the Olympic venues; displacing the people of Sochi in order to build the venues, and then barely or not paying them at all; and not prosecuting the thugs who have persecuted racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
And then there are the cost overruns in Rio as well as the accusations of human rights abuses as Rio tries to clean up the rampant poverty in the Brazilian city.
Rogge has a medical doctorate and practiced orthopaedic surgery. He competed in three different Olympics as a sailor representing Belgium.
Rogge may be hoping to leave now before his reputation becomes hopelessly tarnished thanks to the Sochi and Rio Olympics.
Rogge stated in an interview with the AP that “I hope that people, with time, will consider that I did a good job for the IOC. That’s what you legitimately want to be remembered for.”
His successor will be named this weekend, but not by a successor naming machine. Rather the IOC members will hold a secret ballot on 10 September to name a new President.
Rogge was the eight IOC president. He succeeded Juan Antonio Samaranch, who lead the IOC in an authoritarian manner for twenty-one years. Rogge took over after the Salt Lake City Olympics Scandal when it was revealed that at least ten IOC members had taken bribes in order to get the Olympics into that city.
Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg stated that “He was absolutely the right person at the right time. We had a lot of turmoil. We had to get out of that. We had to get another image. He has brought stability to the organization.”