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Rogge leaves IOC in sturdy shape after 12 years

Tuesday - 9/3/2013, 12:06pm  ET

AP Sports Writer

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Twelve years after taking over an IOC recovering from its worst ethics scandal, Jacques Rogge is leaving with the Olympic body in much sturdier shape but facing serious challenges.

The 71-year-old Belgian steps down as president next Tuesday after steering the International Olympic Committee through a period of relative stability that spanned three Summer Olympics and three Winter Games.

Rogge, an orthopedic surgeon who competed in three Olympics in sailing, is completing his term with a reputation for bringing a calm, steady hand to the often turbulent world of Olympic politics.

He took a hard line against doping and ethics violations, created the Youth Olympics, oversaw a growth in IOC finances during a time of global economic crisis and made peace with the U.S. Olympic Committee after years of bitter squabbling over revenues.

Under Rogge's watch, the IOC has also taken the Olympics to new places _ including awarding the 2016 event to Rio de Janeiro for the first games in South America.

"I hope that people, with time, will consider that I did a good job for the IOC," Rogge, in an interview with The Associated Press, said with typical understatement. "That's what you legitimately want to be remembered for."

IOC members meeting in Buenos Aires over the next week will elect Rogge's successor among six candidates by secret ballot Sept. 10. The new president will face tough issues, including the backlash over anti-gay legislation in Russia before February's Winter Games in Sochi and concern over construction delays in Rio.

Rogge was elected the IOC's eighth president in Moscow in 2001, succeeding Juan Antonio Samaranch, a Spaniard who ran the committee with an authoritarian style for 21 years. Rogge took office following the Salt Lake City scandal, in which 10 IOC members resigned or were expelled for receiving scholarships, payments and gifts during its winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Rogge, who enjoyed a "Mr. Clean" reputation, broke with the tainted and elitist image of the IOC, choosing to stay in the athletes village as much as possible during the six games that he oversaw.

"He was absolutely the right person at the right time," senior Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said. "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."

Rogge's measured leadership was in sharp contrast with that of Samaranch. While the former Spanish diplomat worked behind the scenes and twisted arms to get what he wanted, Rogge pursued a more democratic, collegial and management-oriented approach.

Some critics called Rogge dull and wooden, but he liked to describe himself as a "sober" and level-headed leader in keeping with his medical background.

After serving an initial eight-year term, Rogge was re-elected unopposed in 2009 to a second and final four-year term. He now reflects with quiet satisfaction on his time holding down the most powerful post in international sports.

"I received an IOC in good shape from Samaranch," Rogge said. "And I believe I will leave an IOC in good shape to my successor."

Rogge presided over Summer Olympics in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012), and Winter Games in Salt Lake City (2002), Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010). Some were trickier than others: Salt Lake City came just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; Athens was dogged by chronic delays; Beijing was surrounded by controversy over China's record on Tibet and human rights.

Rogge steered away from Samaranch's practice of calling an Olympics the "best ever," choosing other words to sum up the success of each games.

"I'm very glad of the quality of the games that were held under my watch, summer or winter," Rogge said. "I would say they were `magnificent,' `exceptional,' `superb,' `truly unforgettable,' and `gracious and glorious' for London."

Rogge is leaving his successor with two potentially difficult games ahead.

Apart from security worries and cost overruns, the buildup to the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Games has been dominated recently by an international outcry over a new Russian law banning gay "propaganda." Rogge and the IOC have been criticized for not doing enough to fight the legislation.

Rogge said he is "comforted" that Russia has given the IOC "strong assurances" that there will be no discrimination against any athletes or spectators at the games.

Construction delays and other organizational setbacks, meanwhile, are raising concerns that Rio could be another Athens.

"We're working hard together with both organizers and any potential shortcoming has been addressed, so I expect both games to be good ones," Rogge said. "I think Sochi will be absolutely OK because the Russians love sport, they know sport, there is no limitation in their desire to perform well.

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