World

Olympics opened up China, IOC chief says

As he praised Beijing for the way the Summer Olympics were run, the head of the International Olympic Committee said his organization cannot force change on a sovereign state.
Security forces stand guard during a fireworks show seen over the National Stadium during the closing ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Petr David Josek/Associated Press)
As he lavished praise on Beijing for the way the Summer Olympics were run, the head of the International Olympic Committee said his organization cannot force change on a sovereign state.

At a news conference Sunday marking the end of the Beijing Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the decision to stage the Olympics in China, despite the criticism of the country's human rights record.

The Olympics, he said, brought unprecedented global scrutiny to the emerging superpower with one-fifth of the world's population.

"Throughout the Games, China has been scrutinized by the world, has opened up to the world. The world has learned about China and China has learned about the world. And I believe this is something that will have positive effects in the long term," he told reporters before the closing ceremonies.

Rogge said London would have a tough act to follow when it hosts the 2012 Olympics.

"It is clear that China has put the bar very high,'' he said. "So it's going to be a challenge for London and all the subsequent games. I believe and my hope will be London can even put the bar higher.''

Pressed on the issue of political demonstrations, Rogge said it was unusual that despite the presence of a number of protest parks, of the 77 applications to protest from Chinese people, none had been approved. But he added the IOC's role is not to "solve the ills of the world."

"We are first and foremost an organization devoted to sport, but it is sport with a purpose,'' Rogge said. "The IOC and the Olympic Games cannot force changes on sovereign nations or solve all the ills of the world. But we can, and we do, contribute to positive change through sport.''

Giving the Summer Games to China proved to be the right thing to do and will pay benefits beyond sports, the IOC president said.

Rogge said the Olympics are leaving China with a long-term legacy of sporting facilities, improved urban infrastructure and greater environmental awareness.

With files from the Associated Press

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