IOC president Jacques Rogge takes questions from the media after the IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne. (ATR)
(ATR) With just 135 days to the Olympic Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge tells London 2012 Organizers to "keep focused" on the job ahead.
Speaking at his press briefing following the IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Rogge's message to LOCOG was clear.
"Keep focused," he said. "No complacency. Your job will be over at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games."
Rogge added that he is excited to see the "best athletes in the world in the country that invented modern sport" in the London Games.
According to the IOC president, the EB was reassured Wednesday by LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe and CEO Paul Deighton that the Games are indeed on budget despite "rumors" referenced by Rogge that suggest otherwise.
On the controversial lack of covering planned for seating at many of London's venues for outdoor sports, Rogge said that's a “strategic” decision taken by LOCOG and supported all along by the IOC.
“We know the unpredictability of the weather,” he said.
“I’m living in a country that is exactly next door to the United Kingdom, so all the rain that does not fall on the U.K. falls on Belgium,” he added with a laugh.
And on Transport for London's recent revelation that specially designated Olympic lanes to speed athletes and officials to venues will be opened up to all traffic when capacity is available in a bid to prevent major congestion during the Games, he said the move will be "beneficial" to everyone involved.
"If you don't need an Olympic lane, you don't make it an Olympic lane," he said, adding that Sydney 2000 did something similar to ease traffic for certain hours of the day.
Rogge also announced Wednesday the names of five individuals who will be nominated to join the IOC at its Session in London.
Jacques Rogge, King Albert II of Belgium and Pierre-Olivier Beckers at the 2007 European Olympic Committees meeting in Belgium. (Getty Images)
The nominees are Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president of the Belgian Olympic Committee; Frank Fredericks, current Athletes' Commission chair; Aicha Garad Ali, president of the Djibouti National Olympic and Sport Committee; Lingwei Li, a Chinese badminton world champion and Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
Beckers and Garad Ali's nominations are contingent upon their role as National Olympic Committee presidents.
Fredericks, an IOC member since 2004, has chaired the Athletes Commission for four years.
Takeda's nomination means Japan is set to have an IOC member by the end of the year, following the retirement of the country's two sitting members. While the candidates must be approved by the IOC, the vote is seen as a formality as it is highly unlikely for candidates to not be voted in.
Li has three world championship gold medals in badminton and is considered to be one of the best shuttlers of all time.
Respect for Rome
Asked by Around the Rings
whether he was pleased to see Italy so seriously consider its financial situation before launching an Olympic bid or sad to see Rome go, Rogge said he feels “confident and reassured” that the IOC still has five “very strong" cities bidding for the 2020 Games.
“We understand and we respect the reasons of the Italian government,” he added.
Pressed later about whether Rome's withdrawal a day before the IOC deadline could cause governments to equate the Olympics with a huge loss of money, he said the 2020 situation is “specific for Italy” and not an indication of anything more.
“I am not worried for the future because we respect and we understand the reasons of the government of Mr. Monti,” said Rogge.
Changes of Allegiance
Following the EB's approval of two changes of nationality for athletes Tuesday, he addressed the subject in general at the press conference, insisting he was not referring specifically to either triple jumper Yamila Aldama or cyclist Philip Hines, both of whom will now compete for Team Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics and are being labeled “plastic Brits” by the U.K. press.
Yamila Aldama represented Great Britain at the 2012 Indoor Athletics World Championships. (Getty Images)
There are three primary categories of cases at work, according to Rogge. Athletes who switch allegiances for study, employment, marriage and other reasons are “absolutely legitimate” and not a cause for concern, and he “can understand” those athletes who leave developing countries in which they're not getting any support.
Athletes from other countries who switch their allegiance, however, are a different story to the IOC president.
“You cannot stop it,” he said, “but we don't like it.”
Syrian Situation "Not an Easy One"
According to Rogge, whether controversial Syrian NOC president General Mowaffak Joumaa is invited to the London Olympics is a question for the British government and not for the IOC.
"The policy of the IOC is extremely clear," he said Wednesday. "This is not a call for the sports movement. It is a call for the political movement."
Joumaa is said to be a friend of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is leading a year-long crackdown against civil unrest in Syria that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 7,500 people.
Rogge added that the situation for Syrian athletes is "not an easy one" but that six to eight of them have the potential to qualify to London and are receiving IOC support.
Reported in Lausanne by Matthew Grayson and in Atlanta by Ed Hula III
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