Rogge retracts Athens praise

Less than three weeks after expressing certainty that the August Olympics will be the best ever, International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge has ruffled Greek feathers by effectively retracting that statement and implying that Athens had not really deserved to host the Games. In a transcript of an interview to be broadcast late yesterday by Australia’s Channel Nine TV station, Rogge was asked what he would say at the closing ceremony for the Athens Games. The IOC chief was quoted as answering: «Well, I might start by saying these were not the best ever Games, but…» After Athens expressed annoyance, Rogge hastened to explain that he was generally against dubbing any event as the best ever. «I thought that… you cannot compare Games that were held at a different time, in different continents, in different countries,» he offered. But on May 25, in Cyprus, Rogge had not left the issue in any doubt. «There are actually… 80 days left until the opening of the Olympic Games, but everything that we have studied and watched indicates that there is enough time to finish everything in due time,» he said. «I have no doubt whatever that the Athens Games will be the best ever.» In the Channel Nine interview, Rogge also said the IOC «took a calculated gamble» in 1997 by awarding Athens the Games. «The easy way would have been to vote for Rome, which is a much bigger city… But I think in terms of values return (sic) to the origin and in terms of saying thank you to the Greeks who invented the sport 3,000 years ago, then it was worthwhile.» Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was not amused. She said Greece was given the Games, «because it had the best bid. That is all there is to say.»