Michael Phelps has a new accolade.
“He is the icon of the Games,” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Thursday.
The American swimmer has won five gold medals, setting five world records in the process, so far at the Beijing Olympics. He picked up his 10th and 11th career gold medals Wednesday to become the winningest Olympian of all time.
Phelps is on course to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics.
“The quest to have more medals than Spitz will be something very important,” Rogge told The Associated Press. “And he’s keeping the attention of the public. He is a great athlete.”
Rogge put Phelps in a select pantheon of Olympic idols.
“The Olympic Games live around superheroes,” he said. “You had Jesse Owens, you had Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis and now you have Phelps. And that’s what we need to have.”
On a separate topic, Rogge downplayed the flap over lip-synching at the opening ceremony as “rather insignificant.”
Beijing organizers have faced tough criticism after it was revealed that the 9-year-old girl who performed a song during the ceremony was lip-synching to another girl’s vocal track.
“I am not a producer, so I definitely know nothing about singing and songs,” Rogge said. “I believe that playback (lip-synching) is something that is used in the music industry and the entertainment and show industry on a regular basis. But frankly speaking, this is rather insignificant in relation to the complexity of the games and the magnitude of the games.”