Olympics: Former IOC president Jacques Rogge dies at 79

Jacques Rogge was the eighth president of the IOC from 2001 to 2013.
Jacques Rogge was the eighth president of the IOC from 2001 to 2013.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS - Former International Olympic Commitee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge has died at the age of 79.

His passing was announced by the Olympic body on Sunday (Aug 29).

In a statement, it said: "It is with great sadness that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announces the passing of former IOC President Count Jacques Rogge. He was 79 years old."

Rogge, a Belgian, was the eighth president of the IOC, from 2001 to 2013.

He was succeeded by German Thomas Bach, the current chief.

An orthopaedic surgeon with a degree in sports medicine, he was a life-long sports fan and an accomplished athlete. According to the IOC, he was a Belgian rugby champion and represented his country on the national team.

But he was perhaps better known as a sailor, the sport in which he made his mark at the Olympics. He competed in sailing at three editions of the Games, in 1968, 1972 and 1976, in the Finn class. The IOC said he was a 16-time Belgian national champion and a world champion in the sport.

Singaporean Ng Ser Miang, who is an IOC vice-president, said Rogge "had a very special relationship with Singapore as we hosted the 2005 IOC Session, 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2013 IOC International Athletes’ Forum during his tenure as IOC President from 2001 to 2013".

He added: "As a fellow sailor and friend, we’ll always take the opportunity to go sailing in Singapore waters. These are times and memories I’ll cherish for a long time, and I wish my dear friend Jacques a bon voyage."

After Rogge's career as an athlete was over, he turned his attention to sports administration, becoming president of the Belgian and European Olympic Committees.

He was elected president of the IOC in 2001. After he stepped down, he served as a Special Envoy for Youth, Refugees and Sport to the United Nations.

IOC chief Bach paid a glowing tribute to his predecessor, recalling: "First and foremost, Jacques loved sport and being with athletes - and he transmitted this passion to everyone who knew him. His joy in sport was infectious.

"He was an accomplished president, helping to modernise and transform the IOC. He will be remembered particularly for championing youth sport and for inaugurating the Youth Olympic Games. He was also a fierce proponent of clean sport, and fought tirelessly against the evils of doping.

"Since we were elected as IOC members together we shared a wonderful bond of friendship, and this continued until his last days, when the entire Olympic Movement and I could still benefit from his contribution, in particular on the Board of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage.

"The entire Olympic Movement will deeply mourn the loss of a great friend and a passionate fan of sport."

Ng added: "We worked closely with him  (Rogge) to co-create the inaugural edition of the Youth Olympic Games - a brainchild of his. He was a fervent champion for youth sports and believed that cultural and education elements were equally important to sports.

"It was going to be challenging to launch and organise the YOG in 2.5 years, and it was with his support and trust that made the Singapore 2010 YOG a success. I was also very thankful to Jacques for supporting the idea of the Singapore Olympic Foundation, a legacy of the Singapore 2010 YOG set up to support Singapore sports, which he launched in 2010. 

"I remember discussing the measurement of success for the YOG together. He said if he sees smiles on the faces and sparkle in the eyes of the Youth Olympians, to him, it would be a good indicator of a worthwhile games. At the end of the Games, he told me he saw both and presented the Olympic Cup to Singapore (for the second time, the first for the IOC Session) for hosting a successful Games."

Rogge leaves behind his wife Anne, a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.

The IOC said that following a private family ceremony, a public memorial service will take place later in the year.