Rogge rules out visits to 2016 bid cities

Aug. 06, 2008, 7:51 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING(AP) International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge rejected a proposal Wednesday to allow members to visit the four cities bidding for the 2016 Summer Games.

A ban on member visits to bid cities was enacted in 1991 in the wake of the Salt Lake City bid scandal, which led to the resignation or expulsion of 10 IOC members for accepting improper inducements.

Prince Tunku Imram, an IOC member from Malaysia, proposed at the IOC general assembly that members be allowed to make group visits to the 2016 bid cities - Chicago; Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Tokyo.

``At least we get the opportunity to get a real feel for the city,'' he said.

The idea was shot down by Rogge, who noted the ban was upheld by the IOC assembly in 2002. The issue was reviewed again recently after the bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

``Visits still are not allowed,'' Rogge said.

But the IOC will hold a special meeting next spring in Lausanne, Switzerland, to allow the candidate cities to explain their bids to members, a few months before the October vote in Copenhagen, Denmark.

``There will be a great flow of information from candidate cities to all the members,'' Rogge said.


VANCOUVER'S NEXT: After Beijing, the next Olympic host city in the spotlight will be Vancouver.

Organizing committee chief John Furlong told the IOC on Wednesday that preparations are on track for the 2010 Winter Games, which are 18 months away.

He said nearly all competition venues are ready, with the speed skating and curling sites to be completed this fall. Test events will begin in October.

``We feel we are set to deliver a great games,'' Furlong said.

Tickets will go on sale Oct. 3.

``Our goal is to fill every seat,'' Furlong said. ``We hope for a sellout.''

Organizers have decided to set up a temporary Olympic doping lab at the Richmond speed skating oval, and the facility will be run by scientists from the World Anti-Doping Agency accredited lab in Montreal.

Furlong said work was 70 percent complete on upgrading the ``Sea to Sky Highway'' from Vancouver to the snow sport venues in Whistler.

Plans for the torch relay will be announced at the end of the year, but the route will be exclusively in Canada. The global torch relay for the Beijing Games was hounded by protests, but Winter Olympic relays have always been restricted to the national territory.

The relay will cover 35,000 kilometers, last 106 days and feature 12,000 torchbearers, Furlong said.

``The project is perfectly on schedule,'' said Rene Fasel, leader of the IOC coordination panel for Vancouver. ``We are on track to experience great Winter Olympic Games.''


LONDON CALLING: Organizers of the 2012 London Olympics gave their final report to the IOC before the handover ceremony at the end of the Beijing Games, when the British capital will inherit the mantle as next summer host city.

The report was given by Paul Deighton, chief executive of the organizing committee. He stood in for committee head Sebastian Coe, who was in London with his ill father.

Deighton outlined the progress in the Olympic Park, where construction began recently on the main stadium, the aquatics center and the athletes' village. He also noted that London has already signed up half of its targeted domestic sponsors.

IOC vice president Gunilla Lindberg praised London for a ``very inspiring presentation.'' She was sitting in for IOC president Jacques Rogge, who left the session to attend the flag-raising ceremony for his native Belgium in Beijing's Olympic village.

IOC executive board member Denis Oswald, head of the panel coordinating the London Games, offered fulsome praise.

``The file has been prepared with the kind of detail we usually see a couple of weeks before the games,'' he said. ``Getting so much detail so far ahead leaves us with great confidence. The preparation of the games are moving in a spectacular fashion.''


SOCHI'S CHALLENGE: The IOC reminded Russian organizers Wednesday just how much work they have to do to prepare for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Sochi, which was chosen just over a year ago as host city, must build virtually all of its venues from scratch.

Jean-Claude Killy, head of the IOC commission for Sochi, called it ``the most ambitious'' project in Winter Games history.

``This is a challenge that every organizing committee has in its initial phase, but usually you have 80 percent of the facilities already built and 20 percent left,'' he said. ``Here it's the opposite.''

``Five-and-half years is a short period,'' Killy added. ``I keep repeating that time is moving very fast. We can't stop working for a minute.''

Organizing committee chief Dimitry Chernyshenko reiterated that Russia intends to complete the construction by the end of 2012.

``We now that time is short,'' he said. ``We must continue to make progress in all areas of our preparations. But our first year has shown that we can and will deliver on our promises.''