Olympic leaders remember Jacques Rogge as a man of his word

IOC doyen Richard Pound tells Around the Rings “He was someone who earned his living as a surgeon, but his passion in life was sport”.



Jacques Rogge addresses conference during his tenure as IOC president. (ATR)
Jacques Rogge addresses conference during his tenure as IOC president. (ATR)

(ATR) Jacques Rogge is remembered as an IOC President who pushed for the future of the Olympic Games and someone who kept his word.

Rogge was 79 when he died August 30 at home in Dienze, Belgium. He dealt with the effects of Parkinson’s for a few years after his retirement in 2013. Rogge was a three-time Olympian in sailing, a surgeon and sports leader. His career on the IOC began in 1991, the final 12 years as president.

“He was someone who earned his living as a surgeon, but his passion in life was sport,” IOC doyen Richard Pound tells Around the Rings.

Pound was one of the candidates in the 2001 contest for the IOC presidency won by Rogge.

“As IOC President, he displayed many of the characteristics of a surgeon: he assessed the situation, made the best decision possible in the circumstances and acted accordingly. He did not look backward, but always forward.

“I had stayed on as WADA president during his IOC presidency and said I would only do so if he gave it 100% support, which he did. His word was good and nothing else was required,” Pound writes from Canada.

John Coates of Australia is about to leave the IOC he joined in 2001, elected at the same IOC Session in Moscow that chose Rogge as president.

Jacques Rogge and John Coates (ATR)
Jacques Rogge and John Coates (ATR)

“Jacques had a great affection for Australia having competed against and been friends with many of our leading sailors during his three Olympic Games,” Coates tells ATR.

“And having played rugby whilst studying in England and been a member of the Belgian national rugby team, he was well known within the Australian rugby community.

“Jacques made an immense contribution to the success of the Sydney Olympics in his capacity as Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for our Games. We were not always easy to manage with the political persuasion of both the State and Australian Governments changing during the seven year lead-up period. We also had two Presidents of SOCOG before settling on the State Minister for Sport, Michael Knight for the final lead-up and during the Games, and I am not sure Jacques had ever experienced media like ours,” Coates says.

John Furlong was the leader of the Vancouver bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the first Games to be selected under Rogge’s term.

“He was the only head of the IOC I had a relationship with. He was a remarkably good guy. A man his word. He was first of all, stoic and strong. Really determined character,” Furlong tells ATR.

“One of the first things someone said to me, if you ask Jacques Rogge a question, you really want to make sure you have your act together, because the answer you get is the answer you’re going to have to live with forever. Whether yes or no, he was very clear about his answers,” says Furlong.

Nicole Hoevertsz of Aruba was backed by Rogge to become a member 15 years ago. She is now an IOC vice president.

“He has always had a very special place in my heart. It was on his proposal that I was elected IOC Member in 2006. We have always maintained a warm and cordial relationship, even after he concluded his presidency in 2013. Our common language made it a pleasure for us to have conversations on the occasion of Olympic meetings,” she tells ATR.

“He will be recognized for his leadership of the IOC during extremely challenging times. During his tenure the IOC became a stronger, modern and more efficient organization. We will remember him dearly,” says Hoevertsz.