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Rogge: Talks needed with FIFA to avoid 2022 clash

Associated Press
Belgian Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Comittee (IOC), speaks at a press conference during the last day of the IOC executive board's meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron)
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Jacques Rogge said the IOC and FIFA should hold "sensible discussions" to avoid any scheduling conflicts between the 2022 Winter Olympics and World Cup if the Qatar tournament is switched from the summer to winter.

The International Olympic Committee's president on Thursday said relations with Sepp Blatter are "excellent" after the FIFA president called him to apologize for making derogatory comments about the IOC last week.

Rogge also hailed progress in negotiations with the U.S. Olympic Committee on a new revenue-sharing deal and said the IOC will begin talks soon with American broadcasters seeking to bid on the next set of lucrative broadcast rights. He voiced hope that London will keep the Olympic running track after the 2012 Games.

In separate actions on the final day of a two-day executive board meeting, the IOC suspended Ghana's national Olympic committee for political interference and cleared the way for athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles to compete as independent athletes at the London Games.

Rogge said the IOC has not had any discussions yet with FIFA about the potential schedule clash in 2022, calling it a "hypothetical discussion." Blatter said last week he expects the monthlong tournament will be moved to January to avoid the searing summer heat in Qatar, but no official decision has been made.

Rogge said the 16-day Winter Olympics will continue to be held between the last week of January and end of February.

"I think it would be sensible once a decision would be envisaged by FIFA to sit around the table to see that this is not harmful for either of the two partners," he said. "But as of today we think it's far too premature.

"I think FIFA will take quietly a decision on that, and of course at that time, taking into consideration the bracket that we have to respect, there might be very sensible discussions to avoid a clash," Rogge added.

Trying to hold both major events at around the same time would pose major challenges for organizers, broadcasters and sponsors.

Rogge also sought to put to rest the flap over Blatter's barbs against the IOC in a meeting with reporters last week in Qatar. Blatter claimed the IOC has "no transparency" in its financial accounts, said it handles its finances "like a housewife" and described the organization as a "club." Blatter has been an IOC member since 1999.

After IOC officials complained privately about the remarks, Blatter called Rogge on Wednesday to express regret, several people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

"The incident is closed," Rogge said. "I do not want to expand further. It's in the past. I don't think about it and I'm very glad that the situation is very good.

"I can say relations with FIFA are excellent," he added. "We are working closely with FIFA and we are very confident that we'll continue to have a good relationship."

The IOC and USOC held a first round of talks in Lausanne on Tuesday on solving the revenue-sharing issue that has strained relations for years and contributed to Chicago's first-round defeat in the vote for the 2016 Olympics.

Currently, the USOC receives a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals — figures many international officials feel is excessive.

The two sides are trying to work out a new deal that will go into effect in 2020. An agreement is crucial to repair the USOC's ties with the international movement and for any future U.S. Olympic bid.

"I can say that discussions were very constructive and (held) in a very good atmosphere," said Rogge, who was not part of the talks. "I expect this to be solved much faster than was originally anticipated."

Central to those negotiations could be the upcoming auction of U.S. broadcast rights, which are worth billions of dollars. Talks have been postponed for more than a year because of the economic downturn, but the IOC now plans to go forward with the bids in the first half of the year.

The IOC planned to sell the rights to a two-games package covering the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But the IOC is now considering requests from the networks to offer a four-games package that includes the 2018 and 2020 Olympics — a deal that could be worth more than $4 billion.

"We have taken no decision on the format but we keep all our options open," Rogge said.

He said the IOC will hold an initial meeting with U.S. networks in coming weeks to sound them out. NBC, Fox, ESPN and possibly CBS-Turner are likely contenders.

Also, Rogge said the IOC will not intervene in the debate in Britain over the future of the main 2012 Olympic Stadium.

The 80,000-seat stadium was initially designed to be converted after the games into a 25,000-capacity arena serving mainly as a venue for track and field.

But the Olympic Park Legacy Company is now weighing bids from two Premier League football clubs. West Ham proposes retaining the track, while Tottenham would tear down the stadium and build a new one without a track so fans could be closer to the action. That solution would go against London organizers' original pledge for a track legacy.

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