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Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 14:39 UK

Ainslie as good as Phelps - Rogge


Rogge reflects on the Beijing Games in an interview with Mihir Bose

Olympics chief Jacques Rogge says Ben Ainslie's achievement in winning a third sailing gold is the equal of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt's heroics.

Britain's Ainslie won gold in the Finn class for the third straight Games, but Phelps and Bolt dominated the headlines with more high-profile performances.

In an exclusive interview with BBC sports editor Mihir Bose, Rogge said Ainslie deserved greater recognition.

"For me, his achievement is as valid as Phelps or Bolt," said Rogge.

Phelps and Bolt are likely to leave China as the two faces of the Beijing Olympics.

London should be the return to the country which invented modern sport

IOC president Jacques Rogge on the 2012 Games

Jamaican sprinter Bolt took gold in the 100m and 200m, winning both in astonishing world-record times, while US swimming phenomenon Phelps broke Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record by winning eight gold medals in Beijing.

"I don't like to compare athletes from different sports, but Ben Ainslie competes in a boat class where he can only win one medal," added International Olympic Committee president Rogge, who competed in the sailing in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Games.

"The others (Phelps and Bolt) can win two, three... all the way up to eight. What they do is fantastic, but what Ainslie does is equally fantastic."

Britain have surpassed all expectations in Beijing, with canoeist Tim Brabants winning their 18th gold of the Games on Friday to keep them in third place in the medal table.

Britain's triple gold medallist Chris Hoy
Three-time gold medallist Chris Hoy has exemplified Team GB's success in Beijing
"The performance of the British team has not surprised me because I know what they have put in place," said Rogge.

"Since a few years ago, especially after the 1996 Atlanta Games where it was not so spectacular, you have made a very good effort.

"You have targeted some sports where you could win more medals which was very wise. You have a population of 60 million: you cannot compete with mammoths like the US and China.

"And you had a lot of lottery funding which has been criticised, but the results are there and I think it was worthwhile."

The performance of Team GB has added to the sense of anticipation ahead of the 2012 Games in London, and Rogge expects a festival of sport and entertainment.

"We had a very good example with Greece (in 2004)," he said.

"It was a return to the roots, to the country that invented the Olympics. London should be the return to the country which invented modern sport. There is fantastic tradition, but also the way of life, the way you approach and play sport."

BBC sports editor Mihir Bose
China is the world's most populous country with an estimated 1.33 billion people to call on, and the increased interest in sport has been reflected in their surge to the top of the medals table with 46 golds.

Rogge expects this to be a foretaste of the sporting future.

"We are entering another era of sport," said Rogge.

"And this is going to last for evident reasons: the demography is never going to work against China; their system allows unlimited resources in terms of people and finance for sport; and they are very clever in importing a lot of very knowledgeable foreign trainers.

"In the short and mid-term, the United States will still be dominant in terms of economic power and sport.

"They still have the most number of sponsors, the revenue generated by sport is mainly US-based, so that will last for a time. But it is not the hegemony we had a few years ago."

China's gymnasts won medal after medal
China have a huge pool of talent to call upon
There have been significantly fewer positive drugs tests in Beijing that the 30 or 40 feared before the Games, with heptathlete Liudmyla Blonska joining only four other athletes in falling foul of the strict rules.

Rogge is cautiously optimistic about the future, but said the IOC would continue to battle drug cheats every step of the way.

"The tests we have conducted have been negative and I am very glad about that, but time will tell if this is something that will last for the future," he said.

"I said we could have 30 or 40 positive tests, but if we don't reach that number it will prove the deterrent part of our strategy is working.

"Of course it is possible that cheats are getting better, but to be sure that there will be no loophole and that there is not a drug that we cannot trace, we will freeze the samples for eight years."

see also
Team GB's roll of honour
21 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Olympics boss rebukes showy Bolt
21 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Chen continues Chinese domination
18 Aug 08 |  Gymnastics
Sacked coach attacks China 'medal lust'
18 Jul 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Beijing pollution efforts hailed
07 Aug 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Rogge hails 'milestone' Olympics
04 Aug 08 |  Olympics
IOC denies deal on internet curbs
02 Aug 08 |  Asia-Pacific
IOC boss targets doping suspects
11 Jul 08 |  Olympics
Rogge supports 2012 stadium plans
01 Dec 07 |  Olympics 2012

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