Jacques Rogge, the Belgian surgeon whose reputation has been unsullied by recent Olympic scandals, yesterday became the most powerful man in sport when he was elected president of the International Olympic Committee by a landslide in Moscow.
The 59-year-old Rogge, whose bid was supported by the controversial outgoing president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, easily defeated four other candidates in a secret ballot, the result of which was announced amid the ornate splendours of the Hall of Columns in the centre of the Russian capital.
The election of Rogge maintains the traditional European domination of the IOC leadership. He received 59 votes in the second round of voting against 23 for Kim Un-Yong of South Korea, 22 for Dick Pound of Canada and six for Pal Schmitt of Hungary. Anita DeFrantz, of the United States, was eliminated in the first round.
On a sweltering day, delegates fanned themselves in the Hall of Columns, where deceased Soviet leaders were once laid in state. In a low-key and modest acceptance speech, Dr Rogge said he had learned "the politics of sport" from Samaranch. He added that he would "devote all my energy to the defence of the credibility of the sport."
Rogge was always a likely winner, though there was a flurry of excitement over the weekend when the IOC's ethics committee – a powerful body since the scandal over the choice of Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics of 2002 – was asked to look into an alleged promise by Kim to pay $50,000 (£35,000) in expenses to delegates. Kim denied this and said the allegation was an attempt to smear his election bid.
Pound went on the offensive after losing the vote, alleging that Samaranch had been manoeuvring to have Rogge elected. Asked if he thought Samaranch had worked secretly for Rogge, he said: "Yes. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever."
The departure of Samaranch is likely to lead to a less regal style. In the hours before he stepped down, the IOC was still showing laudatory films about Samaranch's 21 years in office reminiscent of old Soviet films about the Kremlin leadership.
The IOC says the main achievement of Samaranch's reign is that the Olympic movement achieved financial independence. In 1980 broadcasting revenues totalled $122m, 84 per cent of which came from the US. But 20 years later revenue had risen to $1,845m, 53 per cent from the US. Taking into account revenues from ticketing, sponsorship and licensing, total income for the Nagano/Sydney Games were $3,750m.
In 1984 Los Angeles was the only city willing to host the Olympics because of the costs; today competition is intense. In 1998 this led to the worst IOC scandal when an investigation found that in the US city's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games, some 20 IOC members accepted favours. A federal judge dismissed four of 15 felony charges in the bribery case yesterday – the first setback to the US Justice Department's prosecution of Salt Lake officials.
An ethics commission was set up. Delegates were no longer allowed to visit candidate cities freely. The IOC started to publish fuller accounts and, in theory at least, give greater access to the media. At the same time the IOC's credibility was also under attack because of a succession of doping scandals.
Rogge, though only an IOC member for 10 years, is clearly conscious that the reputation of the Olympics has not been entirely restored. "As a surgeon where there is an abscess, you cut, you evacuate the wound and you let the body heal," he said. Putting a certain distance between himself and Samaranch, he added: "He is a man of a different generation. The next president will have to work more as a uniter and a team worker."
Samaranch was granted one of his last wishes when the delegates voted to add his businessman son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jnr, 41, to the membership. The count was 71-27 with 11 abstentions.
The nomination had been criticised for continuing bad old traditions. After his his son had pledged to adhere to the ideals of fair play and peace, Samaranch draped the gold medallion of membership around his son's neck and the two exchanged kisses on the cheek.
But the IOC rebuffed Samaranch on another nominee when it rejected the former Swiss president Adolf Ogi, 59-46. Ogi, a close friend of Samaranch, would have been the sixth Swiss member of the 130-member IOC and opponents said that was too many.
* The president of the British Olympic Association, Craig Reedie, failed to win election to the IOC executive board. He was beaten by Toni Khouri, of Lebanon, by 54 votes to 51.