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Belgian surgeon elected new Olympics president

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Jacques Rogge wasted no time in showing how different his Olympic presidency will be.

The Belgian surgeon and Olympics sailor won a landslide victory Monday to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the International Olympic Committee and then acted swiftly to break with its scandal-scarred and elitist image.

Within hours of his election, Rogge said he wanted to stay in the athletes' village at next year's Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"I think it's the best place to be in the Olympic Games," Rogge said. "It's a wonderful atmosphere. I hope to be able to do that."

Salt Lake City organizing chief Mitt Romney quickly agreed to save space for Rogge.

"It's a wonderful gesture and symbol of his commitment to the athletes," he said. "We'll make the room."

IOC members and officials normally live in luxurious hotels at the Olympics, and Samaranch was renowned for staying in suites with private elevator service and other perks.

Rogge (pronounced ROH-guh) was elected in the second of four possible rounds of secret balloting to claim the most powerful post in international sports, becoming the eighth president in the IOC's 107-year history.

He defeated Kim Un Yong of South Korea, Dick Pound of Canada, Pal Schmitt of Hungary and Anita DeFrantz of the United States.

Rogge was elected to an eight-year term and can seek another four-year mandate.

He was untainted by the Salt Lake City scandal in which 10 IOC members were expelled from the organization for accepting money to help the Utah capital win the bid to host the 2002 Games. Kim's bid was clouded by an IOC censure issued for his role in the affair.

"If ever anyone came in with a blameless character, it was Jacques Rogge. There are no skeletons in the Rogge cupboard," said British member Craig Reedie.

"It's very strong proof that the IOC wants reform and transparency," said Johann Olav Koss, Norway's former speedskating champion. "With the huge support he got, it's very clear he can have a strong voice for reform."

Rogge has vowed to step up the fight against drugs in sports and wants to downsize the Olympics.

He officially takes over Friday in a ceremony at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. He will receive no salary.

BRIBERY CASE: A federal judge in Salt Lake City threw out four of 15 felony charges in the Olympic bribery case Monday.

U.S. District Judge David Sam said federal prosecutors improperly built their felony racketeering case on a Utah misdemeanor law that prohibits bribery or kickbacks in commercial dealings. He said he would elaborate on his reasons later.

Sam indefinitely postponed the July 30 trial of the two men who led Salt Lake City's successful effort to land the 2002 Winter Olympics. The judge said he would rule later on the defendants' request that he dismiss the 11 other counts.