Athens honors Jacques Rogge for his role in Olympic Games

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said yesterday that the Greek people must decide if the record cost of the 2004 Athens Games was worth it. Greece spent some 11 billion euros (US$14 billion) but Rogge said it is a domestic matter. «This is something on which the Greeks have to comment themselves because they are spending it themselves. That there is a great legacy, there is no doubt. Was it at the best price? It is up to you, the Greeks, to make that decision,» Rogge told The Associated Press. Rogge was in Athens to receive an award for his role in the Olympics. Games chief organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Greece IOC member Lambis Nikolaou also received the city’s gold medal. The officials were credited with helping Greece overcome massive construction and organizational delays ahead of the August 13-29 Games – labeled by Rogge at the closing ceremony as an «unforgettable, dream Games.» «You were the ones who, with your hard work and determination, produced such impressive results,» Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said, placing a gold medal around Rogge’s neck. The IOC chief described it as «an emotional moment…a very high award that shines on the entire international committee.» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki addressed growing criticism in Greece that Olympic venues have not been properly used since the Games ended. «It would be a real shame for everyone if the effort and achievement of organizing the Games remained only as a powerful, unforgettable memory,» she said. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki led Athens’s successful bid in 1997 for the 2004 Olympics. Then, after three years of planning delays and political squabbling in Greece, she was brought back as the first woman to head an Olympic organizing committee. Since then, she has been treated at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland amid Greek press reports that she had suffered from exhaustion. Other recipients of the city award include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Looking ahead, Rogge said the preparations for next February’s Turin Winter Olympics were «moving in the right direction.» With a large grin, Rogge added, «I’m as relaxed as I was relaxed for Athens.»