Rogge’s warnings

Jacques Rogge’s repeated and unreserved praise for the splendid opening ceremony and the Games’ organization in general have reminded us of his statements in an interview with the Belgian paper Le Soir a few months ago. The IOC president made some scathing remarks saying that Athens had presented mostly virtual venues. Rogge felt worried at times the Olympiad was at stake and in that sense his criticism was useful and justified. It is quite a different thing, however, to argue the Games can only be awarded to cities that have the bulk of the venues in place. Athens refuted the idea – which is significant for the future of the event. In the past, we have strongly criticized foot-dragging and budget overruns. The Games’ overblown budget has put an extra strain on public finances. On the other hand, the big projects are a precious legacy for Athens and other cities. Athens has upgraded its public transport sector and sports infrastructure, and has transformed into a more beautiful city. It is also clear the Games helped accelerate the construction of many infrastructure projects. In that same interview, Rogge said the IOC had always asked for «simple structures» but the essence of what he was saying lay elsewhere: «They should not come to us and say that we are to blame for the high cost of the Games,» he said of the Greek organizers. To be sure, Greece appeared to be nourishing delusions of grandeur, a tendency not unrelated to the personality of Athens 2004 chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. But this is only one side of the Games. The other is that Athens’s bid was forced to adapt to behind-the-scenes recommendations so as to get the green light. Given that the security budget skyrocketed after the 9/11 attacks, should the IOC perhaps have shouldered part of the burden?