Rogge hails Turin's 'truly magnificent' games

Jacques Rogge delivered his final verdict on the Turin Olympics, and the review was glowing: "truly magnificent."

The International Olympic Committee president offered a warm tribute to Turin and its people during Sunday's televised closing ceremony of the Winter Games.

"You have succeeded brilliantly in meeting your challenge," Rogge said. "These were truly magnificent games. We say a heartfelt thank you to Italy, Piedmont and Turin."

He spoke in Italian, using the expression, "Giochi veramente magnifici." Unlike his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Rogge chooses not to rate any games as "the best ever" and tries to find language giving each edition its own brand of praise.

He hailed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as "superb games" and called the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens "unforgettable, dream games."

Rogge praised Turin's volunteers, calling them, along with the athletes, "the champions of these games."

"Your generosity and smiles have won us over," he said. "You have been marvelous."

Rogge lauded the "brilliant performances" of the athletes, adding, "You have seduced us with your spirit of fair play and brotherhood."

Without mentioning the police anti-doping raids and surprise testing of Austrian athletes at these games, he said the IOC would continue to fight for "a pure and healthy sport."

Finally, in keeping with tradition, Rogge declared the Turin Olympics closed and called on the youth of the world to assemble in 2010 in Vancouver.

At a news conference earlier Sunday, Rogge said the IOC was "happy" with the games.

"Security worked extremely well, the athletes are happy," he said. "They were definitely games that pleased the athletes. The competitions were at a very high level."

Earlier this week, Rogge told The Associated Press he rated the Turin Games for overall experience on a par with those of Nagano, Japan, in 1998 but below those in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994 and Salt Lake City in 2002.

On Sunday, he maintained a diplomatic line.

"I decided I would never speak about best-ever games," Rogge said. "I can say today we are very pleased, but I will not make a ranking or comparison."

Rogge, however, praised the Italians for offering "probably the best-ever quality of sports infrastructure" for a Winter Olympics.

Speaking of the sports performances, Rogge said, "They were truly exceptional. I can't remember games of such quality. That for me is the mostimportant thing."

Rogge singled out Canadian speedskater Cindy Klassen, who won five medals, including one gold, as "the woman of the games." He also cited medal performances by Alpine skiers Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, Hermann Maier and Benjamin Raich of Austria and Janica and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia.

Rogge expressed sympathy for Bode Miller, the U.S. ski star who came away with no medals, and said he hoped Miller will come back for another shot in 2010.

"I expected, of course, like everyone, more," Rogge said. "But you know the games are a grueling competition. You have to be ready on the day and on the hour. Obviously, he was not ready at that time.

"That does not diminish whatsoever the fact that he is a great champion, possibly the best skier of this time. I would only hope that he would continue to Vancouver and show in Vancouver what he's really capable of."

Jean-Claude Killy, the former ski great who headed the IOC coordination commission for the Turin Olympics, gave a top-rate assessment of the organization of the games.

"They were games of heart, of warmth, of smiles, and generosity," he said. "It was Italy at its best."

Turin organizing committee chief Valentino Castellani said his city had lived up to the challenge.

"The atmosphere of the event exceeded all our expectations," he said. "I am proud we have given a great impulse for the Winter Olympics of the future."

Looking ahead to Vancouver, Rogge said Canada's record haul of 24 medals at these games heralds the prospect of an even better showing by the next host nation.

"The IOC believes very much in success of the home team," he said. "We can say today the Canadian team will be ready in Vancouver."

Rogge also touched on the doping scandal involving the Austrian cross-country and biathlon teams, in which police raided their living quarters and the IOC sprang surprise drug tests on 10 athletes. The tests came back negative, but the IOC and Italian police are continuing their investigations.

Rogge said the IOC can impose sanctions based on criminal and circumstantial evidence, e-mails, phone calls, admission of guilt and possession of banned substances.

"There is a whole array of ways of proving guilt," he said. "It should not be a surprise that urine tests are negative. That is only one side of the coin."

The Turin Games had only one confirmed doping case as of Sunday. Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva was stripped of a silver medal after testing positive for a banned stimulant during the first week, reports AP.


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