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News : Sports : Olympics Published: Aug 25, 2008 - 12:35:36 AM

IOC President Jacques Rogge predicts positive legacy from Games

By International Olympic Committee

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The Beijing Games raised the bar for the Olympic Movement and brought positive changes to China that are likely to continue well into the future, Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said Sunday.

Speaking at the closing press conference of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, Rogge said the Beijing Games demonstrated the universal appeal of Olympic values. A record 204 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) sent athletes to China, and a record 87 NOCs joined the medal count.

The competitors established 43 world records and 132 Olympic records, although some only lasted until the next heat.

“It is clear that China has put the bar very high,” Rogge told reporters.

The IOC president also noted that the Games are likely to be the most-watched Olympic Games in history, seen by more people in more places than ever. The Beijing Games were the first to have worldwide digital coverage.

Rogge left no doubt that the IOC was pleased with its decision in 2001 to bring the Games to China for the first time, a move that gave one-fifth of the world’s population more exposure to Olympic values. He said some benefits from that decision are obvious now and that others will become more apparent in the future.

Rogge said the tangible benefits include the sports venues, a new airport terminal, new roads, improvements to mass transit and other infrastructure that was put in place for the Games. He said most of the sports venues were built near universities to ensure their use after the Olympic Games.

“That means that no white elephant has been built and the after-Games use of these venues will be optimal,” he said. “These venues will be used by the students of the universities, by the owners of the different venues, the workers’ unions. This is, I believe, a great legacy.”

He said the Games would encourage more mass participation in sports in China. He also expressed confidence that Games-related environmental improvements, which he recently reviewed with Chinese authorities, will have a lasting impact.

“The efforts on water cleaning and water remediation will be stepped up. More trees will be planted. All of this, I believe, is a legacy of the Olympic Games.”

Rogge said other benefits are harder to evaluate or will require time to fully assess. As an example, he cited the new media regulations that were put in place for the Games.

“The regulations might not be perfect, and we acknowledge that they are not perfect, but they are a sea change compared to the situation before. We hope, and we have expressed this hope, that they would continue,” he said.

While Rogge declared the Games a big success, he acknowledged issues related to Internet access, media freedom and Beijing protest zones. He said the IOC had made its position clear to Chinese authorities but cannot force changes on sovereign governments.

“We acknowledge that the situation has not been perfect,” he said, referring to the Internet issue. “But we acknowledge, at the same time, that the situation is a major change.”

He expressed hope that the Olympic experience would encourage more openness in China.

"Through the Games, China has been scrutinised by the world, it’s opened up to the world,” he said. “The world has learned about China and China has learned about the world. And I believe that this is something that will have positive effects on the long term.”

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