Olympics Have Been a Force for Good for China, Claims Rogge

The Olympic Games have done nothing but good for China claimed IOC President Jacques Rogge on Thursday.

Chinese understood they had to do something regarding improving the environmen, said IOC President Jacques Rogge.

The 65-year-old Belgian, who has been the point man for criticism aimed at the IOC for electing Beijing in 2001 as hosts of the Games, outlined to AFP three areas where he thought bringing the Games to China had helped it develop in a manner which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

"I believe there have been benefits," said Rogge, who was elected at the same IOC meeting in Moscow in 2001 to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch.

"There has been evolution, albeit imperfect, in media freedoms with new rules agreed and obtained from the government which were implemented on January 1.

"This is something new for China. This has seen 25,000 journalists cover not only the Olympics but also the country. There has been no blocking of either papers or broadcasts.

"We know the system is not perfect. A glass is either half full or half empty and I believe it is half full. Time will tell whether it is longlasting.

"Secondly the fact the Chinese understood they had to do something regarding improving the environment. Even Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who told me 'I (Steiner) am no sycophant of the Chinese', admitted the Games have brought a huge improvement and will have a longlasting impact in China.

"And thirdly, and this is an intangible element, I believe these Games have opened up the country. People will understand China better. Similarly I believe that China has experienced that they cannot live in isolation."

Rogge, who will decide later this year on whether he will seek a further mandate next year in Copenhagen, said there would also be a legacy left in terms of the infrastructure which had been built for the Games.

"The ring roads, the airport and the venues, the latter for the most part will not lie unused after the Games are over as they are on University campuses."

Rogge admitted despite all the criticism which had been directed at him personally and the IOC he still believed there had been very good reasons for why Beijing had won in 2001 beating off the other candidates Toronto, Paris and Istanbul.

"I think it was a decision we had to take back in 2001. In July 2001 we had serious doubts over Athens (the 2004 Summer hosts) as they were well behind in the construction work for the Games, and also about Turin (2006 Winter Games hosts). Both were eventually great successes.

"We had a quest for security in electing the next host city, and we believed Beijing would fulfil that.

"Beijing proved that. Almost everything was ready a year before the Games, as was seen in the 2007 test events. They were a success and this vindicated our decision, that we had chosen the best bid at the time.

"And the fact we were bringing the Games to a fifth of mankind had huge added value.

"That is not to say we were naive or blind to the social side of things in China. However, the prevailing attitude was that it would open up China and with very good reason as there would be 25,000 members of the media coming to the country to cover Chinese society and culture as well as sport.

"They have done that and just to repeat a recent poll in the United States, which said more than 50percent of Americans said it was a good idea to bring them here."

Rogge said the IOC were very happy with how the Games had been organised, from the Athletes Village to the transport system for the competitors, with only a few days to go to the end but he was not going to give his overall assessment until the final note had been sounded.

"It is too early. I am a very pragmatic and realistic man. I am not a man of big words.

"You will hear what I have to say at the closing ceremony."

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