Published August 21, 2008
BEIJING – IOC president Jacques Rogge criticized Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on Thursday for showing a lack of respect to other competitors after his record-breaking gold medal performances in the 100 and 200 meters.
"That's not the way we perceive being a champion," Rogge said.
The International Olympic Committee chief hailed Bolt's stunning achievements in the two sprints, comparing him to American great Jesse Owens, but said Bolt should have cut out the look-at-me flaunting and acknowledged the other athletes.
"I have no problem with him doing a show," Rogge said in an interview with three international news agency reporters. "I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters."
Having built a huge lead in Saturday's 100 final, Bolt slowed, glanced around with arms outstretched and pounded his chest before crossing the finish line in a world record time of 9.69 seconds.
"I understand the joy," Rogge said. "He might have interpreted that in another way, but the way it was perceived was 'catch me if you can.' You don't do that. But he'll learn. He's still a young man."
Bolt, who turned 22 on Thursday, stormed to another one-sided victory Wednesday night in the 200, breaking Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record of 19.32 seconds and lowering the mark to 19.30.
Bolt made little effort to congratulate the other runners as he wrapped himself in a Jamaican flag and set off on a solo victory lap. Swaying to the reggae music on the stadium loudspeakers, he walked barefoot around the track, putting his face inches from a TV camera, raising an index finger and yelling, "I am No. 1! I am No. 1!"
"He still has to mature," Rogge said. "I would love him to show more respect for his competitors. That's not the way we perceive being a champion. But he will learn in time. He should shake hands with his competitors and not ignore them. He'll learn that sooner or later. But [he's] a great athlete, of course."
American sprinter Shawn Crawford, who crossed the line fourth in the 200 but was upgraded to the silver medal after the disqualifications of Wallace Spearmon and Churandy Martina, said he saw nothing wrong in Bolt's showboating celebrations.
"I guess there's mixed feelings among athletes," he said. "To me, I don't feel like he's being disrespectful. If this guy has worked his tail off, every day, on his knees throwing up like I was in practice, he deserves to dance."
Bolt became the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100 and 200 golds at a single Olympics, and the only man ever to do it by breaking world records in both. Owens completed the 100-200 sweep at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, adding golds in the long jump and relay.
"Bolt is in another dimension in sprints," Rogge said. "Bolt must be considered now the same way like Jesse Owens should have been in the 1930s. Bolt has a bigger edge than Owens on his rivals. Of course, Owens had the long jump too, so you can't compare people. If he maintains that in the future, Bolt will be someone that probably leaves a mark like Jesse Owens."
Also in the wide-ranging interview, Rogge said he was "very happy" with China's organization of the Beijing Games but will withhold his final verdict until Sunday's closing ceremony.
He reiterated his defense of the IOC's decision seven years ago to take the Olympics to Beijing, which continues to draw fire from critics of China's record on human rights.
"We're not naive, nor blind," Rogge said. "We knew there would be criticism."
"I believe these games have opened up the country," he said. "On one hand, people will understand China better with all its challenges. They will remain critical on many issues, that is their right. On the other hand, the Chinese definitely have experienced that they cannot live in splendid isolation."
Rogge said he expects China to finish first in the Beijing gold medal tally with between 50 to 60 golds and the United States to top the count in overall medals. Midway through Thursday's competitions, China had 45 golds and 81 total, while the United States had 27 gold and 83 overall.
Rogge said China's dominance is likely to continue for years to come.
"I think they are getting there on the top and it's going to be extremely difficult to change that," he said. "The world has to learn to live with a change of geopolitical nature."
Rogge also cited the surprising success of Britain, with 17 gold medals so far, as a boost ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
"They have a generation that is already OK and ready for London 2012," he said.
Rogge said the relatively low number of doping cases in Beijing so far — four athletes expelled and a fifth, heptathlon silver medalist Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine, awaiting a ruling on a positive test — showed that pre-games testing and other deterrents were paying off.
"I expect more international athletes got really frightened and scared about using doping," he said. "We are making progress. It's becoming far more difficult to cheat than it was before."