Newly elected International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge was left on Tuesday with no time to savour his triumph as he faced a daunting start to his eight-year term of office.
Controversy surrounding the campaign leading to Monday’s election cracked open the fragile facade of IOC unity, posing the Belgian surgeon with problems which will immediately tax his considerable diplomatic skills.
Two of his defeated rivals, Dick Pound of Canada and Kim Un-yong of South Korea, two of the most powerful men in the Olympic movement, both cried foul and suggested their campaigns had been purposely undermined.
Pound, head of the IOC’s highly successful marketing commission, accused outgoing president Juan Antonio Samaranch of secretly working for Rogge’s election.
Samaranch appeared to rebuke Pound during Sunday’s IOC session over the Canadian’s role as head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, saying doping in sport was “a mess” and that Pound should urgently call a world conference.
Kim, who thought he had the election sewn up in his favour 24 hours before the vote, claimed he had been fatally undermined by a letter issued by the IOC ethics commission on Sunday asking him about newspaper reports suggesting the Korean was offering illicit financial promises to members.
Kim, who denied the allegations, was so furious he declined to attend the vote. Pound has offered to resign all his posts within the IOC and Rogge will need to use all his diplomatic skills to keep both influential men on his side.
That problem is unlikely to have gone away before the IOC faces a wave of bad publicity when the trial following the Salt Lake City corruption scandal opens in Utah.
The 1999 bribery affair led to 10 members resigning or being expelled from the IOC for breaking rules on accepting gifts from Salt Lake bid officials in their successful campaign for the 2002 Winter Games.
Nor can Rogge ignore the organisational difficulties facing the 2004 Athens Games which was so disastrously behind schedule last year that the IOC began hinting it might have to move them elsewhere.
With all that in mind, any long term concerns over political or human rights issues connected to Beijing’s staging of the 2008 Games may seem comfortably on the horizon.
Rogge will need to have a calm head in a crisis — but he was chosen by the IOC just for that reason.
Asked if he felt a huge weight on his shoulders, he said: “Absolutely not. I am a man of responsibility. I have always loved reponsibility. I had that as a surgeon. It is a new responsibility and I am ready to deal with it.”