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Jacques Rogge

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Jacques Rogge Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa through the International Olympic Committee.

Profile of Jacques Rogge

Born in Ghent, Belgium, Jacques Rogge is an orthopaedic surgeon by profession and was educated at the University of Ghent, competing in yachting in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics, as well as playing in the Belgian national rugby union team. Rogge served as president of the Belgian Olympic Committee from 1989 to 1992, and as president of the European Olympic Committees from 1989 to 2001. He became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1991 and joined its Executive Board in 1998. He was knighted, and later elevated to Count, by King Albert II of Belgium. In his free time, Rogge is known to admire modern art and is an avid reader of historical and scientific literature.

Rogge was elected president of the IOC on 16 July 2001 at the 11th IOC Session in Moscow as the successor to Juan Antonio Samaranch, who had led the IOC since 1980.The IOC was the first major international body to initiate action against apartheid South Africa. South Africa participated in every Olympic Games between 1908 and 1960. Some South Africans did participate in the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis but the games then accepted ad-hoc entries, with black South Africans Lentauw and Yamasani, who were then working at a trade fair, competing in the marathon.

The IOC disqualified South Africa, due to its apartheid policies, from entering the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Apartheid South Africa tried various manoeuvres to enter the Olympic Games thereafter but was constantly thwarted by the IOC. In 1970, the IOC eventually sealed South Africa’s fate by withdrawing its recognition until apartheid was abolished. With the support of African and the former Socialist countries, the IOC policy inspired several international sports federations to take similar action against South Africa. After the release of Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners, as well as the unbanning of political parties, the IOC decided to monitor the situation in South Africa.

In late 1990, the IOC sent a delegation to South Africa to discuss South Africa’s sports position with the African National Congress (ANC). The delegation met with Nelson Mandela and other senior members of the organisation, including the late Oliver Tambo. The ANC thereafter requested that the IOC should consider allowing South Africa to participate in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

The ANC and the IOC felt that South Africa‘s participation in the Olympic Games even prior to the first democratic elections held in 1994 would greatly assist in uniting all of the country’s divided racial groups. The IOC was the first international organisation that urged all the country’s race groups to form united non-racial sports federations in South Africa. The IOC was undoubtedly the prime international organisation to assist South Africa in opening doors for international participation. It even financed the initial development programmes in the country.

The present president of the IOC, Dr Jacques Rogge, played an important part and a crucial role in ensuring the demographic representation of the South African Olympic teams. He assisted the South African Olympic movement in establishing a sound organisational structure. As the then president of the European Olympic Committees, he visited the country on several occasions to offer his experience and assistance. As president of the IOC, he donated US$50 000 towards sending our team to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In the year 2000, there was much criticism of the decision of the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (Nocsa) disqualify South Africa’s men’s hockey team, because of lack of transformation, from participating in the Sydney Olympic Games. The South African Hockey Association, through its international body, appealed to the IOC to overturn Nocsa’s decision. The firm and uncompromising support of Jacques Rogge ensured that the decision was upheld. He strongly believes that transformation is essen­tial to providing the youth from the previously disadvantaged sectors of our community equal opportunities in the sports arena.