Rio won 2016 Olympics on merit not location, Rogge says

By Brian Homewood

LAUSANNE (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games on merit and not on its geographical location, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said on Thursday.

"We were happy to go to Brazil for the first time in South America with the knowledge that these will be good Games, but we did not choose Brazil because South America had never got the Games before," Rogge told reporters.

"We chose Brazil because of the quality (of the bid). The purpose of the Olympic Games is not to serve the public opinion of a country or region.

"The Games are there for the athletes. The athletes have on average only two chances to take part at the Games and we want good Games for the athletes.

"If, at the same time, we can also go to a region that has never organized the Games, we are happy about that."

Rogge denied that the costs of staging the Games had spiraled out of control, saying that many governments had chosen of their own accord to make improvements to coincide with the event.

"In 2002, we studied 117 different measures with the aim of reducing or cutting the costs. Ninety per cent of these 117 measures have been implemented," he said.

"The most visible is the cap of 10,500 athletes in the village, we don't want more and believe me there is pressure to get more.

"The second measure is that we are very strict on sports legacy.

WHITE ELEPHANTS

"We don't want white elephants, we deliberately say the number of seats must be limited and controlled and built in such a way that it (the stadium) is also useful for the city after the Games.

He added: "The major factor for cost is the athlete because the athlete is the center of the Games.

"There is a general misunderstanding about basic Olympic costs and improvements to the city.

"Beijing built a totally new airport but they never used it because there was no need for the (2008) Olympic Games. The actual airport was absolutely adequate, we did not ask for that but this is something the Chinese thought was important.

"Athens decided for the (2004) Games to have a new metro and a light train between the airport and the city and decided to build a new airport, all things we had not asked for.

"They used the opportunity to make some investments as the Games had created a favorable political climate for these.

Rogge added: "We make every effort to keep the costs under control. They are in line with inflation and it is not up to us what improvements the government decides to make in terms of general infrastructure."

(Editing by Clare Fallon)