FEI President Ingmar De Vos and honorary president Princess Haya Al Hussein have joined the sporting world in paying tribute to former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, who has died at the age of 79.
Count Jacques Rogge was IOC President from 2001 to 2013, and was made IOC Honorary President when he stepped down after serving a full 12-year term.
IOC Member and fellow Belgian Ingmar De Vos said Rogge was “a truly inspirational leader” who immeasurably improved the Olympic Movement with his visionary work at the helm of the IOC.
“He vigorously championed integrity in sport, fighting against doping and competition manipulation in all their various forms, yet despite his brilliance, he remained humble throughout,” De Vos said.
“I was honoured to be able to work with him when our paths crossed at the Belgian Olympic Committee, and follow in his footsteps as a WADA Executive Board Member. He became a valued mentor to me and I felt privileged to count him as a dear friend. He was an immense presence and his passing will be felt not just in his homeland of Belgium, but across the entire global sporting community. He will be sorely missed.”
Princess Haya Al Hussein remembers Rogge with great affection. “President Rogge was a true statesman recognised beyond the borders of sport”, she said. “He steered the Olympic Movement with a moral compass centred on values of honesty and kindness. His energy and commitment changed international sport and the world for the better.
“President Rogge brought the IOC to the UN. He worked tirelessly to protect and improve the standing of women in sport, introduced the Youth Olympic Games, and helped shape programmes for athletes retiring from the world stage. He rescued the Olympic Games after the scandals of Salt Lake City and had an unbending approach to integrity, leaving the movement in strong financial health,” Princess Haya said.
“President Rogge was a passionate advocate for sports development and a great help to me personally in establishing FEI Solidarity. I will be forever grateful for the unwavering support and inspirational guidance he gave me over eight years as FEI President. I am eternally in his debt, and my life is better for having known him. May he rest in peace.”
Born in Ghent, Belgium, on 2 May 1942, Jacques Jean Marie Rogge took the medical path in his education, earning a degree in sports medicine and becoming a respected orthopaedic surgeon. But it was the sporting world that became his metier, both as an athlete and a sports administrator at the very highest level.
An avid sailor, he was crowned world champion in the Cadet Dinghy before moving into the Finn class, which earned him three Olympic appearances at the Mexico 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 Games. He played rugby for Belgium and was Belgian national champion no fewer than 16 times.
He then moved into sports administration, becoming President of the Belgian National Olympic Committee (NOC) in 1989, the same year that he was made President of the European Olympic Committees, a post he held until 2001. In 2013 he was made Honorary President of the Belgian NOC, having acted as Chef de Mission for the Belgian team at several editions of the Olympic Games. He also did a four-year term as United Nations Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport (2104-2018).
Rogge became an IOC Member in 1991 and was made a Member of the IOC Executive Board in 1998 before his election as President three years later. As part of his publically declared war on doping, he became the IOC Representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board (1999-2001) and was President of the Coordination Commissions for both Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
Wanting to instill the Olympic sporting ideals of excellence, friendship and respect into an increasingly youthful athlete base, he was instrumental in the creation of the Youth Olympic Games. Aimed at generating a pathway to the bigger Olympic stage by offering younger athletes aged 14 to 18 the opportunity to gain Olympic experience and hone their craft without the pressure of the full Games, the YOG was an instant success from the moment the inaugural Games were staged in Singapore 2010.
Jacques Rogge was married to Anne, and is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren. As a mark of respect, the Olympic flag will be flown at half-mast for five days at Olympic House and at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. The funeral will be a private family ceremony, but a public memorial service will take place later in the year.