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Bob Costas sits down with Jacques Rogge
Click below for NBC's transcript of Bob Costas' sitdown with IOC boss Jacques Rogge, as well as Costas' closing remarks last night.
Limited blogging this week. Please be brave. You'll get through this, dear readers.TRANSCRIPT OF IOC PRESIDENT JACQUE ROGGE'S INTERVIEW WITH BOB COSTAS:
Costas: Thanks for joining up here in the studio. We'll stipulate right at the start that in many ways, these have been among the most glorious of Olympic Games, and the Chinese organizers and the IOC have done many worthy and admirable things here. But, there are always issues surrounding an Olympics. And this is an opportunity to get to some of those issues. We'll start with the most recent. New documentation apparently has come to light that, again, calls into question the eligibility of some of the Chinese female gymnasts. Yesterday's report was three. Now, we're hearing it may be as many as five of the six, and the IOC has asked the International Gymnastics Federation to investigate. How concerned are you that ineligible athletes may have been in used in this case?
Rogge: Well, obviously we want the rules to be respected. But, as we speak today, I've just been informed that the International Gymnastics Federation will come out with a statement, probably in an hour or two. They have obtained the birth certificates and also the family certificates of the athletes at our request. We have requested the Chinese authorities to give these documents. They are being examined now and the Gymnastics Federation will come out with a statement very shortly.
Costas: So, you're satisfied that the Chinese government and the Gymnastics Federation have handled this? Some might say this is important enough, it's a significant high profile competition, involves the host country. Why doesn't the IOC pursue it on its own?
Rogge: Because the rules of sport and the rules of the Olympic Games are that the eligibility of the athletes depends on the International Federation. These athletes are affiliated not with the IOC, but to the International Federation. If you would have a problem of affiliation in Major League Baseball, it would not be another body deciding whether a player is eligible or not. It's (MLB) that's going to decide on it. The same on the 28 Olympic sports.
Costas: Theoretically, if an athlete were found from any country, any sport, to be ineligible because of age requirements, would you take the same action as has been taken in the case for athletes who have been found to have used performance enhancing drugs, strike their medals?
Rogge: Absolutely. And we would not if there were to be any need to take actions, even against the home country. We didn't (hesitate) in Athens, with the two (Greek) athletes competing, who didn't show up for a doping test, and we disqualified them. If an athlete does not follow the rules, there's only one sanction, disqualification.
Costas: Various sports and federations have different rules. For example, there's a 14-year-old diver from Great Britain in these Olympics. Some have said, forget the age requirements. Eliminate the whole problem. If an athlete's good enough, I don't care if he or she is 10, let them show up.
Rogge: No, you have to protect young people. You have to protect young people from overtraining, from injuries. You have to protect them from the psychological pressure that they would have and competing with that. So, age limits are a protection for the youth.
Costas: As we speak, five athletes have been disqualified for doping violations here. Another couple of dozen were caught by their own countries and disqualified before coming to the Olympics. In fairness, the IOC administers very tough drug testing. More sophisticated, more frequent than ever. You're saving the samples now for eight years so you can catch cheaters after the fact. But there are skeptics. You know, they'll say no matter how hard you try, the cheaters will always be ahead of the police. So, how confident are you that the performances we see here are credible?
Rogge: As credible as possible. Let me be very clear. The fight against doping was my number one priority when I started as president of the International Olympic Committee. We have stepped up the doping test from 2,500 in Sydney to 4,500 now, and also you described all the other measures that we have taken. We can say that we've, it's never been so difficult to cheat as today. Does this mean that there is absolutely no athlete running around doping? Of course not. We have to be realistic. Doping is to sport what criminality is to society. You will never have a society without criminality. You will always need judges, prisons and laws. And we'll always need to fight against doping. But it is our sacred duty to protect the athletes and their health and the credibility of the competition. To bring it down to the lowest possible level, and that is what we are doing.
Costas: Precisely as these Olympics began, the conflict between Russia and Georgia began. As it happens, the Winter Olympics for 2014 are scheduled for the Russian city of Sochi, which is just 15 miles from the Georgian border. How comfortable are you with an Olympics in a Russian city, given the present circumstances, an Olympics five and a half years from now, in a Russian city?
Rogge: Well, we were there, and hope not to see any conflict in Georgia. That goes without saying. The IOC is not a sovereign organization. But we are a sport body. What we did at that time is to convince the president of Georgia to leave the Olympics team of Georgia to compete here in Beijing. And I think it was a wise decision, because they won four medals. And these four medals they've won have done more good to the country than had they come back home. It's not the first time we are in this situation. Not that we like it, but when we had the Games in Seoul in '88, we were only 40 kilometers from Pyongyang. So it's not the first time. However, I recognize that the Russians guarantee the security in 2014, and I don't think that will be a problem
Costas: When China was granted the Olympics in 2001, the expectation and the promise was that there would be significant reform in the areas of human rights and press freedoms. Has there been?
Rogge: Let me clear out one ambiguity that they did not make a formal promise. They did not specify what they would do. They said that they thought that the Games would improve human rights. The human rights issue has been disputed by the NGOs. Unless the international human rights was saying that human rights have not progressed because of the Olympics Games, we're not going to challenge NGOs. They are specialized in their field. We respect them all. We are saying that we believe that the Games have put a highlight and a spotlight on China. We bring in 25,000 media people. And we have obtained for these media people the right and the freedom to express their views. You can report freely, Bob, on sport. But, if you wish to report on the situation of human rights in China, you will be able to do this because of the Olympic Games. You couldn't be doing that six months ago.
Costas: Obviously, the IOC has limitations in terms of what power and even influence it has. On the other hand, if China denies Joey Cheek, as exemplary an Olympian as has ever existed, if China denies him a visa, if they send two women in their late 70s off to a labor camp, for "reeducation" because they filed for a legal protest, if those things happen, why doesn't the IOC just emphatically and publicly raise hell and say we can't stand for this? We may not be able to stop it, but we strongly protest it?
Rogge: Well, on the first case we definitely expressed on the Joey Cheek issue, we just expressed to the Chinese government the wish that he would get the visa. Now, this is again a sovereign matter. May I recall to you of the case that occurred not so long ago where the Cuban national baseball team was prevented to enter the territory of the United States of America because of the law you are having. We have insisted that's at the level of the State Department to say please, let the Cubans participate in the world championship, let them enter the country. The State Department said we are bound by the law, we can't do that. Well, we have to respect these decisions.
Costas: I think some observers say we understand that Jacques Rogge and the IOC have a limitation to their power, all they can do is attempt to persuade. But, they would prefer a more emphatic and direct public statement in some circumstances, and some have arisen here in China.
Rogge: Well, because that would probably serve their needs. You know, when Beijing was elected for the 2008 Games, I consulted with many, many Sinologues, specialists of China, heads of state, politicians, ambassadors, business people who have worked and lived in China. I spoke with Chinese. And all of them said there is one golden rule if you want to obtain something in China, you work with a quiet diplomacy. You don't grandstand. You don't shout. You don't lambaste, because it's not going to work. We obtained the maximum that the IOC, a non-sovereign body, could obtain from the Chinese authorities in many fields, media, freedom, environment, but also a lot of other social issues like proper compensation for expropriation and things like that, child labor. But this is not something you do by making a press conference and saying I'm going to ask this or that. And by the way, let's be very honest. How could we ask the IOC to succeed where generations of heads of state and prime ministers have failed. You've seen here in China, every year tens of heads of state of government coming to China, signing very, very good contracts for their business and their world of enterprise and going back to their countries. Have they revolutionized China? They have made progress. We believe that we have contributed to that. But don't ask us to do what heads of state cannot achieve.
Costas: The audience knows that baseball and softball are eliminated from the Olympic program at least for the time being, after these Olympics. Softball especially from an American perspective seems like, an ideal Olympic sport. Happens to involve women and part of your objective is to reach a 50/50 distribution of athletes ultimately. Why is softball out?
Rogge: Softball is out because it suffered a little bit, from an unfair affiliation with baseball. Baseball has been tainted by drug abuse. I am speaking not of amateur baseball. Major Leagues have been tainted by drug abuse. You had the Mitchell inquiry, the Barry Bonds case, I mean, I don't have to come back to that. And outside of the United States and regions where Softball is popular, there was this belief that softball was the women's version of baseball, which is absolutely not the case. Definitely, at the moment we are reviewing the program, cost a lot of votes for softball. On the other hand, there was also a little bit of concern to have too much of a domination of always the same country winning all of the medals. But I would say there is maybe a silver lining to a heavy cloud and the fact that Japan has defeated the United States might help the future of Softball.
Costas: So I am hearing you say that from your perspective, softball was victimized by a mistaken impression on the part of some IOC Delegates. That they lumped it with baseball and that Softball deserves a separate hearing.
Rogge: Yes, but the responsibility lies also and primarily, with the softball federation. The softball federation was not clear enough in informing all of the IOC Delegates that there was a difference between softball and baseball. And one of the things that led to this ambiguity is the following: In many countries of the world, the national governing body of baseball and softball is the same one. So in many countries, you have only one federation, the baseball and softball federation. So many people had this impression that softball was the women's version of baseball.
Costas: Are you hopeful, then, that softball is back on the program? It can't be for 2012, but it could be for 2016, are you hopeful it will be?
Rogge: You are asking me to make a judgment on whose sport is going to come. This is a decision for my colleagues; I have to be neutral so I am not going to say that I am hopeful for such and such sports. There are several applicant sports, two that will be accepted. Softball is a possibility, baseball is also a possibility, you have golf, you have rugby, you have karate, you have roller-skating and you have squash, and they will compete for two spots. But definitely, softball has done a great effort in teaching people and informing people about the difference with baseball.
Costas: It's fair to say that as long as Major League Baseball players can't be here and therefore the best in the world can't be here, that baseball will have a very tough time getting back in.
Rogge: Well, we have the best athletes in the world; we have the American basketball team with Lebron James, we have the NHL with all their stuff. We had Michael Jordan with Scottie Pippen with the Dream Team in '92. That is what we want to see, if possible, to have maybe not the complete team of the Major League, but at least a star from the Major Leagues participating in the festivities.
Costas: You were, I thought, mildly critical of Usain Bolt. I was critical for the same reasons, not so much showmanship after the fact, but during the competition, during the 100 meters, seemed to disrespect his opponents. On the other hand, he just turned 22, and today as we speak, he donated $50,000 to the Red Cross to assist the earthquake victims here. So, now, what would you like to say about Usain Bolt?
Rogge: Well, I would like to repeat what I said to say that he is a great champion, that I have no objection to the show he makes before the start or even after the finish, but I didn't like, and you didn't like this kind of gesture of "catch me if you can." This is a disrespect for his fellow competitors. Usain is young, he is definitely not yet mature. I mean I would love to be in his position, 22 years of age with such physical skills. But if you look at the 4x100, I think the message got through and I am sure the Jamaican team whispered something in his ear. After the 4x100, he was exemplary. He shook hands with his fellow competitors, he stayed with the team and I think he learned a lot in two days time.
Costas: Last thing, what was your favorite moment of these games? We are almost at the end as we speak.
Rogge: I have many, but there is one moment that I will never forget and that is the tears of joy of Roger Federer winning the gold medal for the doubles. Here you have the man who is arguably together with Sampras, the best ever tennis player in the world. He has won everything but the elusive gold medal he did not have. He wanted to go to the Olympic Games at the end of the season, and he won the medal and he was crying. I mean for me, this is the same thing. The spark in the eyes of a Michael Jordan. These are millionaires, these are mega-stars. They win an Olympic medal and there is no money to win in the Olympic games, and you see the sparkle in the eyes, the tears in the eyes, that is the dramatic moments of the games.
Costas: It probably doesn't hurt that as a Swiss citizen, if you wanted to, you could invite him to Lausanne and give him a tour of the IOC Headquarters.
Rogge: This is on my program.
TRANSCRIPT OF BOB COSTAS' CLOSING SEGMENT:
Well, just as the marathon was one of the concluding events of the Olympic Games, we are now bringing our broadcast marathon to a close. Beyond the competitive drama, every Olympics provides a snapshot of a city and a country at a point in time. This one was more compelling than most, since China's rise and its ongoing transformation is the global story, not only of the moment, but likely of the foreseeable future. These Olympics were a milestone in that still unfolding story. And while history will tell us whether or not the Olympics provided China with the confidence to not only build on its considerable strengths, but also to address its considerable problems. This much we know.
This is a country so vast, a people with lives so varied and a history so rich and complex that no visitor can fully grasp it. Still, of these Games, no advanced degree in international relations was required to appreciate the genuine warmth of the Chinese people, the honest pride in their country and how seriously Chinese citizens, famous Olympians, to everyday men and women, took this chance to show themselves to the world.
All Olympics are important to the host city. These Games were monumentally important to the host nation, which happens to be home to 1/5 of humanity. All that said, just as these Olympics were significant politically, they were also very significant competitively. Beijing turned out to be among the most memorable Olympics ever.
One headline was anticipated before the Games began, and then verified here. For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, an ongoing Olympic rivalry shapes up. In Beijing, the U.S. won 110 medals-the most it's ever won at a non-American Olympics. But China, second in the overall count, easily won the most golds here, and the most by any country since the old Soviet Union in 1988. Many of China's triumphs went beyond excellence. Their perfection and precision, simply beautiful to behold. China is now a sports power with a sophisticated state-supported sports system. They will be at or near the top of the medal list at London and beyond.
Meanwhile, the Americans had plenty to cheer about. Beach volleyball pairs both prevailing, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson winning gold and winning hearts, the men's basketball team doing exactly what they set out to do-winning, yes-but also redeem and redefine the image and purpose of the U.S. program.
These Games reached multiple crescendos. From the beginning, there was Michael Phelps, who now ranks among the very greatest Olympians ever and who is also now in the top tier of the best and most popular contemporary athletes in any sport-unheard of for a swimmer, until Phelps.
Just about the time Phelps left the pool, a Jamaican jet zoomed over the track. The sprints are supposed to be decided by blinks of an eye, not by bolts of speed so astonishing that, like the spectators, the competitors can only marvel at the world's-- and history's-- fastest man. More nations, 204, participated here than in any Games before. And more won medals, 87, than ever before as well.
But beyond the medal podium, the Olympics remain a human panorama, with many also-- ran finishes and first-round eliminations, nonetheless representing epic personal stories, only appreciated by the participants themselves and their families, friends and countrymen.
Theses Games began with Zhang Yimou's stunning Opening Ceremony, so boldly conceived and brilliantly executed, that it set a standard for such occasions unlikely to be equaled. And tonight, with more theatrical touches, the curtain came down. So the people of the world came to Beijing, and the people of China extended their hands. You don't have to speak a word of Mandarin to understand that.
I've been fortunate to be involved with many memorable Olympics, and in many ways, this has been the most memorable. In no small part, due to the efforts of the small army of people who worked tirelessly to bring these Games home to you. For these colleagues, I will always have enormous professional regard and personal gratitude.
The names of these talented men and women accompany this final montage of the images of China and Olympic moments-moments we hope resonate with you as they have with us. Good night, this one last time, from China.