By David Owen in Innsbruck

David Owen_small1Entering the final phase of what will be a 12-year stint as head of the world's most powerful sports body, Jacques Rogge's workload does not appear to be getting any lighter.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President will celebrate his 70th birthday on May 2; yet he was a man on a schedule in the outrageously scenic Austrian city of Innsbruck this weekend, when insidethegames was granted an exclusive interview.

Temporarily installed on the 14th floor of a city-centre hotel ringed by magnificent snow-covered mountains, Rogge certainly had a room with a view.

And it could be said that the view from the summit of the Olympic Movement at present is almost as spectacular.

jacques rogge_16-01-1211
At a time when large swaths of the world are enduring economic avalanches of one sort or another, the value of the broadcasting and sponsorship deals that provide much of the Movement's revenue are proving enviably recession-resistant; the kudos attached by athletes to winning Olympic gold has probably never been higher; and now, to cap it all, the Youth Olympics – one of the innovations with which Rogge's time at the controls of the Olympic ski-lift is destined to be most closely associated – have taken off like Matti Nykänen in his pomp.

With around six weeks to go before National Olympic Committees must inform the IOC of the identity of candidate cities, the line-up in the coming race to stage the third Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2018 looks set to be eye-poppingly strong.

Buenos Aires and Medellín in Colombia will definitely be on the list, and they could be joined by any or all of Abuja (Nigeria), Glasgow (Great Britain), The Hague (Netherlands), Kaspiysk (Russia), Monterrey (Mexico) and possibly others.

"I would not be surprised to have definitely more than half-a-dozen cities," Rogge told insidethegames.

"It is an appealing project for a city: they don't have to build anything because we say we will use existing facilities; we agree on small venues because we prefer a fully-packed small venue to a big venue that is half-empty; the budgets are reasonable; the broadcast audience is growing; and it is a very mobilising project for a city and its population."

jacques rogge_16-01-12111
Rogge, along with a big turnout of his fellow IOC members, is in Innsbruck, of course, to attend the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games.

The event means that the Austrian city has pipped London to the honour of being the first place (outside Olympia) in which the Olympic flame has been lit on three separate occasions. (Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976 – remember Franz Klammer?)

In spite of the intensification of interest in the Summer Youth Games, however, there remains scepticism, within the IOC as well as outside, about the long-term viability of the winter edition of these Games.

This is partly because the contest for the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics attracted only one bidder: Norway's Lillehammer.

Rogge, however, is noticeably bullish about the winter event's future.

"There are particular reasons why there was only one bidder this time," he argued.

"At the moment we launched the bidding, the [first] Summer Youth Games had not yet taken place and there were a lot of question-marks: is this baby going to live long?

"Secondly...we were engaged in another parallel bid for the 2018 [Winter] Games.

"That eliminated a number of traditional winter sport countries that [might otherwise] have made a bid...

"I mean Germany would definitely have launched a bid if they had not been launching a bid for Munich.

"France would have done the same."

innsbruck 2012_16-01-12
So was the IOC President, then, hoping that the success of the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, would stimulate interest in future winter youth events, as it clearly has for the 2018 Summer Games?

"Oh yes definitely," he replied.

"I have contacts with cities...

"There will be a healthy interest [in hosting the Winter Youth Olympics in 2020] and, believe me, various very good bidders."

Once Innsbruck is over, the focus will very quickly switch to London 2012, the last Summer Olympics of Rogge's Presidency.

Given that the Games will have this special place in Rogge's personal Olympic history, what in particular was he hoping for from them?

"It is not just what I hope," he retorts.

"London will definitely present a Games where the athlete is at the centre of preoccupations.

"It is going to be an athlete-centred Games – definitely with Seb [Coe] at the helm.

"He is doing a great job, together with LOCOG and Paul Deighton.

"We are coming to the country that invented modern sport in the 19th century.

"You are the ones who invented sport.

"You love sport.

"You have integrated sport in your educational system and it is part of your cultural heritage.

"I think we will feel that.

"Then you have, of course, the appeal of London, which is separate from the Games.

"It is a very iconic, multicultural city.

"So...we will have a great Games."

Did Rogge feel that the strong likelihood that London 2012 would take place at a time of considerable economic hardship for many people placed an extra responsibility on the IOC in terms of setting an appropriate tone?

"Definitely yes – the Games should be sustainable, that's the bottom line; I think the word 'sustainability' is an important one," he said.

"It is already very good to see that six of the eight venues have found a tenant."

The Olympic_Stadium_Aquatics_Centre_and_Water_Polo_Arena_16-01-12
Following a recent announcement by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), only the Olympic Stadium and the International Press and Broadcast Centre have still to find tenants.

"After [London 2012] there will be no white elephant, which is very important," Rogge said, adding: "I think people should be fair and see the expenses on the remediation of east an investment rather than an expense because it's going to leave a great legacy."

He went on: "We always want to be sober and not to exaggerate", adding, in a telling phrase, that organisers were asked "not to go into extravaganza.

"I am very clear: there is no extravaganza in London.

"I insist on that."

While scheduling and security issues inevitably make it difficult for Olympic personnel, as well as athletes, to dispense with tools, such as the Olympic car fleet, that might be interpreted by the public-at-large as extravagances, Rogge offered the striking pledge that: "When I can go with public transport, I will."

However, he added, "My job is also to go to the 26 sports.

"And you know, you can't ask an athlete who is competing at 10 o'clock to wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to have breakfast, to go to the underground, to shuttle.

"You need an Olympic lane for that."

He understood, of course, that "for some people it might be difficult.

"But this is a two-week event that is probably not going to happen [again] in a very long time in London.

"It is going to benefit London a lot.

"There are some inconveniences, but I think the public will accept that."

Samsung-Olympic-Mascot-Billboard 16-01-12
On other matters, Rogge acknowledged that the IOC might have to adjust some of its TOP product sponsorship categories to keep up with advances in technology.

"We have overlapping factors, I fully agree," he said.

"There is an overlapping between definitely Samsung and Panasonic without any doubt.

"We have some overlapping between Omega and Atos Origin.

"We are discussing with our partners to find the best possible solution on that...

"I think we will have what I call 'adaptations to reality'."

On revenue-sharing negotiations with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), he said: "I think I can say that we are progressing in a good ambiance and we are moving forward.

"Not everything is finalised yet, but I am happy about the progress of the discussions."

He declined, however, to give an expected time-frame for an agreement.

The USOC currently receives a 20 per cent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 per cent share of US broadcast rights deals.

Asked to confirm a suggestion that these percentages might be left unchanged up to a certain threshold of income and then reduced, Rogge replied: "This is one of the strategies that are being studied and explored.

"They are working on simulations on that, but I can't give you any, I would say, correct clue on that.

"This is one of the things that are being discussed within a range of possibilities."

david howman_16-01-12
Finally on doping, Rogge mounted a staunch defence of in-competition testing, in spite of a recent speech by David Howman (pictured) in which the  director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) asserted that the "clever cheating athlete...might now be confidently of the view that he or she will avoid detection under the historical approach".

According to Rogge: "You always have to look at these declarations in context.

"He never suggests abandoning traditional testing because traditional testing is helping us a lot; it is yielding a lot of positive cases.

"If you look at the figures of people who are caught positive, they are very good in terms of cleaning up the sport: we catch a lot of cheats...

"Of course some athletes are very sophisticated...

"But now we have traditional testing, which I think we must continue; we have longitudinal blood profiling, which is a real breakthrough; we have what we call forensic methods, which is also a help; we have the support of traditional authorities, telephone tapping and so forth, warrants, package-searching.

"So the fight against doping is not one single method, it is an array of different methods: the traditional ones; longitudinal blood profiling; re-testing after eight years; the work we are doing on genetic doping, not yet implemented...

"What comforts us is that it is obviously far more difficult to get away with doping today than it used to be yesterday."

David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 World Cup. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed here.