Olympic chief Rogge criticised for 'lack of respect'

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The Independent Online

In a highly unusual show of discord between Olympic leaders, IAAF chief Lamine Diack sharply criticized IOC president Jacques Rogge on Friday for displaying "a lack of respect" for the sport of athletics.

Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, issued a strongly worded statement vowing to fight for the "rightful place of athletics at the summer Olympic Games."

He assailed the International Olympic Committee president for criticizing Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's celebrations in Beijing and for suggesting that the Olympic track in London could be ripped up after the 2012 games.

Diack, who is scheduled to meet with Rogge in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 17 Nov, said he will "remind him of the contribution that athletics has made to the Olympic Games throughout its history and particularly to the success of the most recent Olympic Games in Beijing."

The IOC said it had no immediate comment on Diack's letter.

Diack took issue with Rogge for accusing Bolt of excessive showboating and showing a lack of respect to other sprinters after his world record-breaking performances in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the Beijing Olympics.

"We live in a time when Olympic sports are struggling to remain attractive to young people, when we all need to make sport exciting and relevant to them," Diack said. "Since we need to create heroes that young people identify with, why criticize the behavior of a young man who is instantly and completely appealing to young people?"

Diack said Bolt, who won a third gold medal and set a third world record in the 4x100 relay, was only showing "exuberance and uninhibited pleasure in victory."

The achievements helped Bolt "transcend sport and become... a truly global icon and a genuine role model for youngsters who may not find Olympic sport that exciting," Diack said.

Diack also attacked Rogge for his recent comments about the after-use of the Olympic stadium in London.

The 85,000-capacity venue, which will host athletics events and the opening and closing ceremonies, is to be converted after the 2012 games into a 25,000-seat arena.

London organizers have always said the stadium would be used after the Olympics for athletics. But, in the wake of the current financial crunch, Rogge suggested in a BBC interview that wouldn't necessarily have to be the case.

"We should avoid leaving white elephants and if the best solution is to transform the track into something else, then we would be in favor of that," he was quoted as saying. "We had the same situation in Atlanta where the (1996) Olympic Stadium was changed into a baseball stadium, which kept an interest for sport."

Diack responded in blunt terms.

"As the leader of the world governing body for athletics, I think this shows a lack of respect for my sport," he said. "As an IOC member myself, I voted for the host city for the 2012 games in Singapore and, obviously, one of the most compelling arguments in favor of London, was the fact that the city desperately needed a world-class venue for athletics."

"A promise was made and I believe it is totally reasonable to expect that the most important sport of the summer Olympics, which is athletics, gets to live on after the three-week period of the games is over."

Diack said he had no objection to athletics sharing the London venue with other sports. Organizers are considering arrangements with a local football or rugby team as a tenant.

"Destroying the track would be totally unacceptable," Diack said.

He also disagreed with Rogge's assessment of the Atlanta stadium, which he called a "source of great disappointment."

"The fact that the site of magnificent athletics' performances such as Carl Lewis' last Olympic long jump gold or Michael Johnson's amazing double at 200m and 400m is no longer able to host athletics... but is instead a bargain venue for professional baseball is nothing to be proud of at all," he said.

"Today, believe it or not, the USA does not have a single venue capable of hosting an IAAF World Championships in athletics."

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