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Rogge succeeds Samaranch after landslide victory

HDN | 7/17/2001 12:00:00 AM |

Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge won a landslide victory on Monday to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Rogge, 59, gained an absolute majority in the second round of voting to take control of the

Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge won a landslide victory on Monday to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Rogge, 59, gained an absolute majority in the second round of voting to take control of the world's leading sports federation for the next eight years.

After acknowledging applause in stifling heat in Moscow's Hall of Columns, Rogge pledged to protect the credibility of the Olympic movement against "doping, corruption and violence".

"The very first challenge for the International Olympic committee is to have a very successful Salt Lake City Games and we will unite everyone to help our American friends in this endeavour," he told a television interviewer.

Former American rower Anita DeFrantz was eliminated in the first round leaving four candidates in the race. Rogge swept to victory with 59 votes ahead of South Korean Kim Un-yong (23), Canadian Dick Pound (22), and Hungarian diplomat Pal Schmitt (six).

Samaranch, who turns 81 on Tuesday, announced the decision 21 years to the day after he was elected to succeed Ireland's Lord Killanin. He had been elected president in 1980 in the same venue that Monday's announcement was made.

HIGHEST HONOR

After a brief victory speech, in which he praised his opponents for fighting a dignified campaign, Rogge presented Samaranch the IOC's highest honour, the Olympic Order in Gold, and kissed him on both cheeks.

"For me this is a great responsibility not only because of the IOC and the Olympic movement but also to succeed such a prestigious president," he told reporters.

"I'm going to dedicate the next eight years to the development of the Olympic movement and the IOC in close collaboration with all my colleagues.

"It is not an easy task but I believe sport has such great strengths that the IOC will remain successful. There are a lot of things to be done.

"I'm not talking about victory -- I'm talking about decisions of the IOC. I hope to be innovative."

Samaranch, who appeared close to tears, said: "I think this is a very important day in my life. It's been so long since I've been head of the IOC.

"It's a joy to have such a credible successor and I feel fulfilled. He is very young, he knows sport very well and he has experience. Never will I intervene."

KIM QUESTIONED

Rogge's election seemed assured after the IOC's ethics commission said on Sunday Kim had been questioned over a possible rules breach following a letter from an IOC member.

The 70-year-old South Korean was asked about comments attributed to him in newspapers suggesting he would offer IOC members $50,000 a year for an office and expenses if he became president.

Pound another IOC veteran and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, also suffered a rebuff on Sunday when Samaranch said the drugs problem was "a mess" and called for a world conference on doping before the end of the year.

The 59-year-old Canadian, who was lobbying among delegates up to the last minute, said he wished Rogge well.

"I think I'd rather be talking to you as president rather than not president but I accept the decision," he said.

Asked if he was surprised how swiftly the vote had gone, Pound replied: "I was a little surprised but the people had decided where they wanted to go. They don't often stop at the intermediate water hole."

Rogge, a former Olympic yachtsman who competed at three Olympic Games, has risen rapidly to the top after only 10 years on the IOC.

He gained a seat on the ruling executive board three years ago before the Nagano Winter Games, coordinated last year's Sydney Olympics and has taken charge of the troubled preparations for the 2004 Athens Games.

Samaranch, whose last major task as president was to announce that Beijing had been awarded the 2008 Olympic last Friday, leaves a mixed legacy to his successor.

He successfully steered the Olympic movement through two successive political boycotts and helped turn the Games into a stunning financial success.

But the IOC's image was tarnished with revelations in 1998 that members had accepted bribes in Salt Lake City's successful bid of the 2002 Winter Games. Ten members either resigned or were expelled.

Moscow - Reuters

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