Samaranch and Rogge would have acted like Bach to save the Games: “I don’t think either of them would have thrown in the towel”

On July 16, 2001, the Belgian Jacques Rogge took over from the historic president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

(ATR) Just 20 years ago today, the “Samaranch era” came to an end and the “Rogge era” began.

Not a few followers of the Olympic world believe that the Spaniard Juan Antonio Samaranch and the Belgian Jacques Rogge, each with their own styles, would have followed a similar road map to the one designed by the German Thomas Bach to try to save the Olympic Games from the lethal onslaught of the unforeseen world pandemic.

Jacques Rogge and Thomas Bach on Bach's first day in office September 17, 2013 (ATR)
Jacques Rogge and Thomas Bach on Bach's first day in office September 17, 2013 (ATR)

“I don’t think either of them would have thrown in the towel,” says a veteran Olympic official.

On July 16, 2001, in the Hall of Columns of the House of Trade Unions in Moscow, Samaranch, after a 21-year presidency, passed the baton to Rogge, the same place and the same day that in 1980 the Catalan had taken the reins of the International Olympic Movement in place of Lord Killanin.

At that time, three days before the inauguration of the boycotted XXII Olympic Games, Samaranch led the votes with 44 against the Swiss Marc Hodler (21), the Canadian James Worrall (6) and the German Willi Daume (5).

The surgeon Rogge, with 59 votes, won in the second round against South Korea’s Un Yong Kim (23), Canada’s Richard Pound (21) and Hungary’s Pal Schmitt (6) after leading the first round (46) in which the American Anita L. DeFrantz, who would be the first woman to run in an election for the presidency, was eliminated.

Among the new IOC members chosen in Moscow was Juan Antonio Samaranch junior, then vice-president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union. He was joined by Timothy Tsun Ting Fok (Hong Kong), Issa Hayatou (Cameroon), Randhir Singh (India), John Dowling Coates (Australia) and Els Van Breda Vriesman (Netherlands).

The House of Trade Unions, near the Bolshoi Theater, hosted the historic announcement, but the 112th IOC Session was held at a well-known hotel, four kilometers away, with more operational facilities for the IOC, where, three days earlier, Beijing would confirm its long-awaited proclamation as the 2008 host city.

It was a selection process that counted with 10 cities at the beginning: Bangkok (Thailand), Beijing (China), Cairo (Egypt), Havana (Cuba), Istanbul (Turkey), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Osaka (Japan), Paris (France), Seville (Spain) and Toronto (Canada).

Samaranch was very pleased with Rogge’s triumph as the eighth IOC president.

Juan Antonio Samaranch (ATR)
Juan Antonio Samaranch (ATR)

More than a thousand journalists were accredited. I was among the few journalists from Latin America present. “The IOC will have to make the necessary changes in tune with those originating in society,” Rogge said in his opening remarks.

“We leave an IOC stronger than ever and I regret not having carried out 10 years ago the reforms made in 2000. Every crisis has its positive side and the Salt Lake crisis allowed us to change,” said Samaranch, who was named honorary president for life, just as the Belgian would be later.

“I won’t be on the executive, but if one day I’m called upon to participate, a former president should not be a shadow.”

Rogge would serve 12 years at the helm of the IOC before being relieved by Bach in 2013, after a relatively stable period, in which he spanned three Summer and three Winter Olympic Games, and founded the Youth Olympic Games, as his most enduring legacy.

He kept a firm hand against doping, fought against illegal betting in sport and violations of ethics and continued to strengthen the IOC’s finances. Under his presidency South America hosted its first Olympic Games, instituted a limit of 10,500 athletes and 28 sports for the Summer Games and succeeded in including golf and rugby from 2016 as well as women’s boxing at London 2012, a discipline that was frowned upon by his predecessor.

Rogge also dissociated himself from the habit of calling the Olympic Games “the best” at the end of each version. “Let history be the judge,” he said.

Bach behaved in a similar way at the end of the Rio de Janeiro version. However, for those of Tokyo, the transcendence of their celebration in the face of the current complicated reality, it is already anticipated that they will be named “historic”.

Written by Miguel Hernandez