IOC chief authorized to cancel Salt Lake games if necessary

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ The president of the International Olympic Committee was granted emergency powers Thursday to make urgent decisions on the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, including the ability to cancel the games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge reiterated, however, that he wants the Feb. 8-24 games to go on as scheduled.

``We cannot lose time if decisions have to be taken,'' Rogge said after being given the powers in the wake of last week's terror attacks in the United States. ``It's not a response to a crisis situation, just empowering the president of the IOC, if needed, to take decisions.''

Asked whether he could envision a war cancellation for Salt Lake City, Rogge said: ``I'd say today, definitely not. I'm not a man given to speculate on what ifs and things that no one can predict.''

Rogge said the decisions could cover financial issues, scheduling of events and ``many other aspects.''

Rogge said the Olympics are ``an answer to the present violence and should not be a victim of violence.''

He declined to speculate on whether the games could be called off if the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington leads to a war. The only times the games have been called off were during the two world wars.

``I don't know what we do for humanity if we were to cancel the games,'' he said.

Rogge spoke at a news conference at the end of a three-day meeting of the International Olympic Committee's ruling executive board. He said the board gave him ``full power to take any decision that might be needed for the Salt Lake City Games.''

Rogge confirmed the powers authorized him to cancel the games, but said he would not do so without consulting the board. IOC Vice President Kevan Gosper of Australia said that, previously, cancellation of the games would have needed a vote of the full committee of more than 120 members.

``The powers that have been given to me are only for operational issues,'' Rogge said. ``A decision of that nature, of course, is not to be taken by me alone.''

``I'm not pessimistic, I don't see a need for that,'' he added.

Rogge cited ``the need for flexibility'' between now and the next executive board meeting in mid-December. After that, the board is due to meet in Salt Lake City on the eve of the games.

``The IOC will be flexible, adaptable, will work toward the success of the games,'' he said. ``In the current situation, there is absolutely no question whether the games will go on. Yes, the games will go on. It would be stupid and unwise to speculate about possible scenarios in the future.''

Rogge said he had received full assurances from Salt Lake Organizing Committee chief Mitt Romney on security measures.

``The Olympic Games are the best message of brotherhood, fraternity and universality,'' he said. ``There is no better symbol of the world uniting around the cause. ...

``I think this message will prevail and I hope it will prevail.''

Rogge said he still planned to stay in the athletes' village in Salt Lake City rather than in a hotel.

``The athletes' village is the most secure place in the world,'' he said. ``From a security point of view, you could not be better protected.''

Asked whether he feared a possible boycott of the Salt Lake Games in the event of military conflict, Rogge said:

``The Olympic Games are about inclusion and not exclusion. The Olympic Games are not a competition of nations, they are a competition of athletes.''