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Rogge says Pyeongchang win will not affect Tokyo’s bid for 2020 Summer Games

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge lauded Pyeongchang, South Korea’s victory in the race for the 2018 Winter Olympics as a win for Asian sport.

He also said South Korea’s triumph doesn’t necessarily knock Tokyo out of the running to be awarded the 2020 Summer Games.

In Japan to celebrate the 100th year of the Japan Olympic Committee, Rogge said he would welcome a strong bid from Tokyo and dismissed the notion that consecutive Games couldn’t be held on the same continent.

“There is a perception that there is an automatic rotation of continents,” Rogge said on Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “This is not the case.”

He cited examples such as Europe hosting consecutive Winter Games in 1992 and 1994 — Albertville, France, and Lillehammer, Norway — as well as Athens being awarded the 2004 Summer Games followed by Turin, Italy, hosting the 2006 Winter Games.

“You have the situation of the Games in 2012 (in London), followed by Winter Games in Sochi (Russia) also in Europe in 2014,” Rogge said. “There is no rule. We go for quality, we do not go for continent.”

Beyond that, the IOC chief offered no further clues about a possible Tokyo bid, which could be announced as early as this week.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has expressed a strong desire to host the Games in 2020, after the city lost out to Rio de Janerio in the race for the 2016 Games.

The deadline for bids to host the 2020 Summer Games is Sept. 1.

Rogge expressed regret over the March 11 tragedy in Japan and was due to visit a few evacuees later in the day. He said he was confident about the safety of holding sporting events in Japan.

“I would not be here if I didn’t feel safe,” he said. Rogge also expressed no major concerns about radiation, saying, “in terms of radiation, from what we have read from official statements and from specialized people, there is no problem to practice sport in Japan.”

While celebrating the JOC as a very influential body in the Olympic movement, Rogge pointed to Pyeongchang’s triumph as a sign of Asia’s rise in the world of international sport.

“Pyeongchang won with a very convincing margin,” Rogge said. “I think this is due to many factors. A factor, of course, is the quality of the bid. The bid of Pyeongchang benefitted from the fact that you had three times. Each time (it) improved on the basis of the lessons of the past.

“The first bid was obviously not good enough to be selected. The second came very close, there was not a big distance with Sochi. The third one benefitted from all the experience. There is also the fact that the IOC has been sensitive to perseverance and patience.”

He didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic by recent statements in the media about North Korea hoping to co-host the 2018 Games. Rogge said the IOC awards the Olympics to one city, in one country, and that the body would not go against the Olympic charter by spreading venues between the two nations.

“In the specific case of North and South Korea, there have been times in the past when the two teams have paraded together,” Rogge said. “This is something we would consider.”

He said the two nations parading together or fielding a joint team could be symbolic, but that was as far as he was willing to go.

“Don’t expect the IOC to spread venues between the two countries,” Rogge said. “But bringing the athletes together is something we would be very sympathetic to.”

He also expressed dismay at the increased news of corruption in the world of sport, saying, “this is a new fight we have.” Rogge, however, said he had no qualms with the current process for choosing an Olympic host.

“The election system of the IOC is very transparent,” he said.