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London starts the countdown

The president of the International Olympic Committee lauded London’s 2012 organisers as the best prepared he has seen one year out from a Games, but warned that illegal betting now ranks alongside doping as a threat to the future of sport.
By The Guardian | None, London
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2011 12:53 AM IST

The president of the International Olympic Committee lauded London’s 2012 organisers as the best prepared he has seen one year out from a Games, but warned that illegal betting now ranks alongside doping as a threat to the future of sport.

Serious threat
Jacques Rogge will discuss the issue of match-fixing and illegal betting — which has been most high-profile in football and cricket, but which he said was also a serious risk in Olympic sport — with the British government and 2012 organisers when he arrives in London this week.

“I can’t open my newspapers without finding an article on the prevalence of cheating and match fixing. In Germany, Italy, Belgium, Hungary, Turkey, Greece. In China, in South Korea, in Singapore. It is a world problem and it is a very pernicious problem. With the introduction of broadband, you can bet worldwide,” he said.

“The danger is that from illegal betting comes match fixing and you see more and more attempts to manipulate matches. It’s as dangerous as doping for the credibility of sport.”

On the issue of drug cheats, he said there would be a record number of tests (5,500) in London next year. “We are progressing. Let’s not be naive. There will be no time when you can say with certainty that there is no doping in sport. Cheating is embedded in human nature,” said Rogge.

He also issued a warning to athletes who, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, are going to ever more sophisticated lengths to evade detection.

“We are going to sample your urine and your blood. We might not find the illegal drugs at first testing, but we will freeze your samples and they will be retested later on,” said Rogge. “There is a permanent check and you will be found.”

At an event on Wednesday Rogge will formally invite the world to London to mark the milestone of one year to go.

“They are on time, on budget. Quality-wise we have not the slightest concern,” said Rogge. “There is no doubt about that. London is very well organised, the team is very strong.”

Libya kept hanging
Turning to the ticketing system employed by London organisers, Rogge said it was fair but that he could understand the disappointment of the million-plus applicants who missed out on tickets. “You are always going to have people disappointed. The lottery system is a fair one and an open and transparent one, but it's still a bit of a cruel one,” he said.

And he confirmed that the distribution of tickets to the Libyan National Olympic Committee, headed by Muammar Gaddafi's son Muhammad, could be suspended until “very shortly before the Games” while instability continued in Libya. “Not a single ticket has been allocated or awarded to Libya,” said Rogge.

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