Outgoing IOC chief Rogge to step aside once term ends

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) -- Jacques Rogge, the outgoing president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said Wednesday he will step aside for his successor once his term ends later this year, rather than exercise his membership in the Olympic body for another decade.

In a teleconference with international media, Rogge, 71, said he will not try to intervene in the business of the IOC and his successor. The new IOC president will be elected at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September.

"I think it would not be wise and advisable for the IOC to have the past president running around with a vote and making comments," Rogge said. "I will probably be an elder statesman, but not more than that."

The Belgian said that he will resign as an IOC member once his successor is chosen and become an honorary member. He can remain an IOC member until he reaches the age limit of 80, but he stressed that that won't be the role he will be seeking.

Rogge, who competed in yachting at three straight Summer Olympics starting in 1968 in Mexico City, was elected as the eighth president of the IOC in 2001. He was re-elected for a new term in 2009, but will not be eligible for a third term.

Six IOC members will be running to succeed Rogge. The candidates are: Thomas Bach of Germany, a vice president of the IOC; Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, also an IOC vice president; Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, head of the IOC's Finance Commission; Wu Ching-Kuo of Taiwan, head of the International Boxing Association; Denis Oswald of Switzerland, head of the International Rowing Federation; and Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, a former Olympic pole vault champion and an IOC member since 2008.

Seven of the first eight IOC presidents have come from Europe, with the American Avery Brundage, who served from 1952-72, being the only one from outside the Continent. Two Asian candidates are in this race, but Rogge said the IOC members will look past the candidates' nationalities.

"I don't think this (nationality) factor will play in the election of my successor," Rogge said. "My colleagues will go for the man they think is the most able to lead the IOC."

At the same IOC meeting, the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics will be chosen. Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are in the running.

Istanbul has never held an Olympics and is bidding for the third time. It came up short for the 2000 and 2008 Summer Games. Tokyo last held the Summer Games in 1964 and is making its second consecutive Summer Olympics bid, having lost out to Rio de Janeiro of Brazil for the 2016 Games.

This is the third straight bid for Madrid, which has never previously staged an Olympics. It lost to London for 2012 and again in 2016 to Rio de Janeiro.

Rogge said the three bids are "very close to each other," and the race will come down to each city's "vision" for the Olympics.

The IOC chief said Madrid is stressing that it's ready to host the Olympics after two earlier bids, while Istanbul is looking to serve as the bridge between Europe and Asia. Tokyo offers security and guarantee from the financial and operational points of view, Rogge added, and the Japanese capital has bounced back after the catastrophic tsunami in 2011.

"There's very little separation between the three," Rogge said. "Three different visions: It's going to be a tight race."

In Buenos Aires, the IOC will also add a new sport to the 2020 Olympics. Competing for that one spot in the Olympic Program are baseball-softball, squash and wrestling.

The international federations for baseball and softball have merged in hopes of strengthening their chances of rejoining the Olympic program, after they were dropped following the 2008 Beijing Games. Squash is trying to join the Olympics for the first time.

Wrestling has been on a roller coaster ride. In February this year, the IOC Executive Board voted to recommend wrestling's exclusion from the Olympics. Wrestling officials promptly launched a major social media campaign and adopted significant rule changes, and they got a reprieve three months later, when the same Executive Board shortlisted wrestling and two other sports for inclusion in 2020.

Rogge praised efforts by FILA, the international wrestling governing body, to respond to the challenge presented by the IOC.

"They improved vastly the governance of federation by including women and by including athletes with voting rights," Rogge said. "The rules of the sport have changed to make the competition more understandable by the public. Whether this will be enough to give them the selection for 2020, it remains to be seen. (But) they did good work, definitely."

Asked to reflect on the highlight of his tenure, Rogge said he was most pleased with having presided over six successful Olympic Games -- three summer and three winter.

"There isn't just one event," Rogge said. "The biggest satisfaction I had is that I was able to positively describe the Games at closing ceremonies and say they were magnificent Games and exceptional Games."

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