Jacques Rogge, the passionate man who modernised the IOC
Between 2001 and 2013, Jacques Rogge was President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A former elite athlete and doctor, this Belgian, who was made a count by King Albert, will forever remain one of the great figures of Belgian sport.
Before taking over the reins of the world's largest sporting organisation, Jacques Rogge had had a life full of experiences. In terms of sport, in his youth, he himself practiced sailing at the top level. Sixteen-time Belgian champion and a world champion, he competed in the Finn class at the Olympic Games three times (in Mexico in 1968, Munich in 1972, and Montreal in 1976). At the same time, he played rugby at a high enough level to be included in the Belgian national team on ten occasions.
This Ghent native, born in 1942, subsequently became head of the Belgian delegation at the Summer (Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988) and Winter Olympics (Innsbruck 1976 and Calgary 1988).
Steeped in the Olympic spirit, this orthopaedic surgeon also specialised in sports medicine. Fluent in five languages, his qualities were established at the very top of the International Olympic Committee in 2001. Succeeding Juan Antonio Samaranch, Jacques Rogge was responsible for six Olympic Games, from Salt Lake City in 2002 to London in 2012.
Close to the athletes, he was the first IOC President who preferred to stay in the Olympic Village rather than at a hotel in the host city. He primarily wanted to bring people together on many issues, and was uncompromising about the neutrality of the Olympics. As he said: "If we let the athletes, coaches or officials use the opening or closing ceremonies of the Games, or the podium to express their opinions, that will be the end of the spirit of the Olympic Games."
In 2013, the man nicknamed "Mister Clean" left his successor, the German Thomas Bach, with a healthier and more prosperous organisation in both sporting and financial terms.
Returning to live in Belgium after 12 years at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne (Switzerland), Jacques Rogge died on Sunday 29 August 2021, shortly after the closing of the Tokyo Olympics, the last Games that he himself had announced at the end of his term as IOC President.