International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge tried to quell concerns about security at the London Games, saying the IOC has been reassured proper measures have been taken.
“The security arrangements are in place now and we are satisfied with them,” Rogge told reporters on the weekend in his first press conference at the Olympic Park.
Games organizers have been scrambling for days to sort out a security mess caused when British security firm G4S PLC said it could provide only about 7,000 of the 10,400 guards it was supposed to train. The government has called in the military to make up the difference.
“Yes this has been an issue,” Rogge added. “It has been identified. Corrective measures were taken. The company [G4S] will compensate the extra costs of the soldiers to the government. And I humbly believe that it is time to move on now.”
Rogge, who is stepping down as IOC president in 2013 after 12 years in the post, then spent about 40 minutes fielding questions on a wide range of topics.
He brushed aside questions about requests from around the world, including from U.S. President Barack Obama, for a moment of silence in the opening ceremony to pay homage to the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian militants during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
“We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic case,” he said. Instead, he said the IOC will participate in other events including one in Germany on Sept. 5, the day the attack occurred in 1972.
“I will not say that we say that we are necessarily following the advice [from Obama] but we take it into consideration.”
Rogge also touched on sponsorships at the Olympics and the IOC’s sometimes ruthless efforts to protect its corporate partners. The IOC has been criticized for being overly zealous in preventing competing products from entering Games’ venues and for going after companies of all sizes that use the Olympic symbols without permission.
“We have to protect the sponsors because otherwise there is no sponsorship and without sponsorship we have no Games. However you have to be balanced and reasonable,” he said.
That means spectators showing up to London Olympic sites in T-shirts or shoes bearing logos of competing sponsors will not be asked to remove the items, he added. Only blatant acts of so called “ambush advertising” will be tackled.
“If you have a T-shirt of a competitor of one of our sponsors, we will not intervene. That goes without saying,” he said.
As for the traffic tie-ups and congestion in London caused by specially reserved Olympic lanes, Rogge said he had sympathy for Londoners. “This is a major event. It is a very important event for London. It is a very important event for Great Britain,” he added. “We’ll try to keep the inconvenience at the lowest possible level.”
Rogge even took time to address concerns raised about the use of live animals during the opening ceremony on Friday. The spectacle, produced by film maker Danny Boyle, will include scenes of rural England complete with dozens of sheep, cows, horses, goats and other farm animals.
“The animals will not be slaughtered,” Rogge said as chuckles spread through the media centre. “That’s important.”
He went to explain how the IOC and Games organizers are doing their best to accommodate the animals. “They are also trying to find measures to reduce stress.”