New IOC chief opens first general assembly

SALT LAKE CITY -- With pointed references to the Sept. 11
attacks and the Olympics' own corruption scandal, the new IOC
leader opened his first general assembly Sunday as the Winter Games
drew near.

Jacques Rogge, elected as the eighth president of the
International Olympic Committee last July in Moscow, said the
multibillion-dollar industry that puts on the games was strong but
faced many challenges, especially from world upheaval and the use
of performance-enhancing drugs.

"Aside from the security threats that may arise during the
games, the greatest danger to sport is doping," Rogge said at the
opening ceremony for the IOC's 113th session. "Doping is not just
an attack on ethics and fair play. It is also a direct attack on
the health of the athletes. It is, moreover, a mortal danger to the
credibility of the sports world."

Rogge's remarks were delivered to 112 IOC members and guests in
a downtown concert hall ringed by security barriers and patrolled
by troops in combat gear and armed with automatic rifles. The
ceremony featured a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Rogge's predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, often referred to
the dangers of drugs in speeches during his 21 years as president.
But the first opening address by the 59-year-old surgeon from
Belgium was another sign that the IOC was stepping away from the
rigid formality of the past into a more open and direct

A good part of that change was force-fed after the
million-dollar scandal involving Salt Lake City's winning bid.
While other officials have said in recent days that the focus was
now firmly on the future -- starting with the Winter Games that open
on Friday -- Rogge presented the corruption case as the sort of
danger the Olympics must learn from and avoid.

"It was here, in Salt Lake City, that we first learned of a
profound crisis which nearly destroyed the IOC," Rogge said. "But
while this crisis arose here, it did not originate in Salt Lake
City alone. Inappropriate structures and human weakness on both
sides were the root of an evil that would have come to light here
or somewhere else."

Ten members were expelled or resigned for taking improper perks,
and Rogge noted that a special assembly in Mexico City in November
would deal with fine-tuning reforms.

Likewise, Rogge directly addressed the effect the terrorist
attacks on New York and Washington have had on preparation and
staging of the games and the management of international sports in

The "tragic events" of Sept. 11, he said, "changed the face
of the world and reminded us, if we still needed it, that sport is
closely linked to the political and economic framework within which
it develops."

Rogge also noted the economic effect of the attacks, which have
helped push the security budget for Salt Lake City to $310 million.

"The difficulties concerning air travel, the extra cost of
security measures, and the increasing unpredictability of sources
of funding for sports organizations are all new obstacles which
will be a test for the Olympic movement," he said.

He thanked President Bush for his "full support" to make sure
the games are safe.

"Where security is concerned, the president of the United
States of America reaffirmed that everything would be done to
ensure the peaceful holding of the games, and to guarantee access
to the games for all participants," Rogge said.

He also thanked "the American people and express our sincere
gratitude to them" for continued Olympic support.

The speech contained no direct reference to Afghanistan, which
was barred from the IOC before the 2000 Sydney Games because of the
Taliban's campaign against women in sports.

The IOC has started discussions with new Afghan leaders to
return to the fold. But director general Francois Carrard
reiterated Sunday that no Afghan representatives would take part in
any way in Salt Lake City.

Rogge cited other key issues facing the IOC, including:
increased leadership roles for women, getting children to take up
sports, and paring the size of the Olympics "so that, one day, all
continents will have the capacity to stage the games, without
detriment to either their quality or their success."