Salt Lake hosts IOC leader Rogge

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY -- IOC president Jacques Rogge plopped onto a twin-sized bed at a college dormitory Tuesday and placed his hands on his lap. His eyes darted around the sparsely decorated room.

''This is all that I need,'' he said, breaking into a smile.

Rogge brought his informal style to the site of the next games, shunning a tie in favor of a blue, button-down shirt as he toured the athletes village, where he will bed down during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

''I don't want a limousine. I don't want a flag on my car. I don't want a police escort,'' Rogge told Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney as they walked the village grounds.

Rogge, a 59-year-old Belgian surgeon, proclaimed the end of the crisis from the Salt Lake bribery scandal during an address to hundreds of cheering SLOC employees who packed the organization's downtown headquarters.

Later, he made the point again at a news conference.

''The crisis is over. We have changed the IOC,'' Rogge said. ''We have disciplined the members who did not behave well. We put an ethics commission in place. We have changed the rules for voting on candidate cities. We've made a profound reform.''

Asked if the pending trial of former bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson might detract from the Salt Lake Olympics, Rogge said it was a matter for the U.S. Department of Justice.

''I can tell you the athletes do not care about the trial. The spectators who are coming do not care about the trial,'' he said.

The new president, making his first trip to Utah, said the IOC will have a minor role in producing the games and that SLOC's employees and volunteers will make the Olympics a success next February.

''This (visit) was meant to show our total support, our total confidence in the Salt Lake Organizing Committee,'' Rogge told the crowd, many of them hanging over railings in the building's four-story atrium.

Since taking the helm last month as the IOC's first new president in 21 years, the former Olympic sailor has tried to portray the organization as less tradition-bound and more cooperative.

From his casual dress to his request to sleep at the athletes village, Rogge is taking a less formal approach than his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

''It's more than a symbolic gesture,'' said Bob Ctvrtlik, a former American volleyball Olympian who now serves as an IOC athletes representative. ''It's part of who he is. It's not an act.''

None of the nine male IOC officials who joined Rogge and Romney for the tour wore a tie. It was appropriate dress for a trip to the Park City area, where the group visited the Utah Olympic Park.

The venue will be the site of bobsled, skeleton, luge and ski jumping during the Olympics, which run Feb. 8-24. On Tuesday, the French ski jumpers were trying out the 120-meter jump.

Romney called over French jumper Guillaume Sylvain to meet Rogge. They exchanged pleasantries, and Sylvain returned to his training.

The delegation fell behind schedule and skipped a planned stop at Park City Mountain Resort, site of giant slalom and snowboarding. They got a drive-by look at Deer Valley, where slalom races and freestyle skiing will be held.

Rogge then visited the Olympic village on the University of Utah campus, where he will sleep after eschewing the usual first-class hotel suite offered the IOC president.

''It's not quite five-star, but we do have accommodations for you,'' Romney told him.

SLOC officials are unsure where they'll place Rogge, saying they need to find appropriate work space to go with a room. One possibility was the modest two-room dormitory suite Rogge saw during the stop.

''It's OK for me,'' he said. ''It's absolutely OK.''

A planned trip to the Delta Center, site of figure skating and short-track speedskating, was bypassed. Rogge and other IOC officials viewed the parking lot that will be converted into a medals plaza for the games.

''It's perfect,'' said Jean-Claude Killy, the former French ski champion who organized the 1992 Albertville Olympics. ''We are confident the Salt Lake committee will do very well next year.''

Rogge had never seen Salt Lake. While he was an IOC member, he resisted efforts by former Salt Lake organizers who are accused of offering more than $1 million in cash, gifts and scholarships in return for support of the city's bid.

''We were very pleased by our visit,'' Rogge said. ''I knew about the excellent preparations for the games but I had never seen the facilities or been to Salt Lake City. I'm really impressed.''


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