Rogge favourite to follow Samaranch as IOC president

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There will be a new holder of the unofficial title of "the most powerful man in world sport" today and all the indications here are that the new International Olympic Committee president will be the Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge.

The South Korean Kim Un-Yong, Rogge's nearest challenger in the race to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch, was last night embroiled in a row over a reported promise to give every IOC member at least $50,000 (£35,000) a year in expenses. Kim was forced to respond after the IOC ethics commission investigated a report in an American newspaper in which his remarks appeared to breach election rules.

Kim was quoted as saying $50,000 was the minimum needed annually by each IOC member to maintain an office. ''For me, $50,000, for example, is not big. But for many parts of the world that would cover one year," he was quoted as saying.

Kim yesterday denied that he had mentioned any specific figure and insisted that he would not pull out of the election. His manifesto supports expenses being paid, but to mention any figure would contravene IOC's rules.

The Canadian Dick Pound, another rival candidate, said that he believed ''the great majority of the members will be offended by such a proposal'' and called it ''completely unacceptable''.

Rogge has been the favourite throughout the build-up tot the election, but Kim and Pound, a lawyer, were expected to run him close.

The balance appears to have now shifted decisively towards Rogge, who is head of the European Olympic Committee.

None of the 110 IOC members who can vote today at the World Trade Centre – including Princess Anne and the British Olympic Association president, Craig Reedie – is allowed to reveal publicly who they support. But Reedie said: "If you did a poll, Jacques would retain his favourite position.

"Jacques is multi-lingual. He's full of charm, He's built up the European Olympic Committees into coherent and organised terms. His skills are keeping people together." There have even been rumours that Samaranch, who is understood to favour Rogge, has been personally lobbying members to vote for the Belgian.

Victory for Rogge, 59, would come as a relief to Olympic modernisers because Kim has been embroiled in scandal before. He received a "most serious warning" in 1999 after an IOC inquiry found that his son had accepted payments from the Salt Lake City committee bidding for the 2002 Winter Games. Kim insisted he knew nothing about it. If it had been proved otherwise he would have been forced to resign.