International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Thursday he hoped to see the cleanest, most drug-free Olympics in modern times.
“Let me give them the message both to viewers and to the athletes,” Rogge told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday, less than a month before the Beijing Games begin. “They must be persuaded that the IOC will do everything that is humanly possible to have the cleanest possible games.”
He said 4,500 doping tests will be done, including an improved test for human growth hormone.
The IOC also has promised to call in Chinese police to investigate suspected drug supply rings.
“I believe that today we are very, very close to the cheats,” Rogge said. “I wouldn’t say level par, but very, very close to the cheats and far closer than we used to be a couple of years ago.”
A drug-free games is especially important to China, determined to be the perfect Olympic host.
And Rogge said he hoped the Olympics would restore joy, hope and pride to a nation still coming to terms with a devastating earthquake in Sichuan province two months ago that killed nearly 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless.
“We would love the Games to give that back to them,” Rogge said. “We should not forget there are still many people who suffer from the earthquake. This is today a nation in mourning.”
The earthquake and violence in Tibet, where state authorities clashed with protesters opposed to Chinese rule in March, has directed more of the world’s attention on China than it perhaps wanted in its Olympics year.
Much of that attention has been focused on the industrial smog that cloaks the city in a toxic haze.
In 10 days, Chinese authorities will start to take more than 1 million cars off the city’s streets and close factories and heavy industry in surrounding provinces to try to improve Beijing’s notoriously poor air quality.
“We are confident that atmospheric pollution will have no major impact on the Olympic Games,” Rogge said.
The IOC medical commission has said breathing problems might occur in endurance events of more than one hour, such as the marathon. If pollution levels exceed limits recommended by the World Health Organization, those events could be postponed and rescheduled.