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Rogge wants Israeli help for Palestinians
BETHLEHEM, West Bank |
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) - Olympics chief Jacques Rogge on Wednesday called for Israel to give more help to Palestinian athletes in his "message of peace" during a major tour of the region.
"Please make the life of the Palestinian athletes easier... that is definitely the main message that I will convey later this afternoon and tomorrow," the International Olympics Committee (IOC) President told Reuters in an interview.
Rogge told his Palestinian hosts he would ask Israel to ease travel restrictions for Palestinian athletes and to facilitate a greater flow of sporting goods and equipment into the Palestinian territories.
Rogge said he planned to invite the heads of the Israeli and Palestinian committees to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland shortly to discuss co-operation between the two bodies.
"The message will be peace, make it more easy," he said.
In the last few years, Palestinian soccer players were denied freedom to travel by the Israeli authorities -- mainly out of the Gaza Strip -- to join the national team for World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.
Additionally, Palestinian athletes had difficulties with travel for training prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Rogge was speaking during a Middle East tour that includes visits to Jordan, the occupied West Bank and Israel.
He was also asked about India's problematic build-up to the current Commonwealth Games which had been plagued by media stories of unfinished facilities and unfit accommodation.
"I think you have to be fair and only cast a judgment at the end of the games and not at the beginning or before the games," Rogge told Reuters in the interview in Bethlehem.
The $6 billion New Delhi Games suffered a string of hitches in the run-up to their Oct. 3 start as they attempted to showcase India's growing economic might.
These have included filthy conditions at the athletes' village, allegations of corruption, a collapsed footbridge and health issues that caused considerable embarrassment.
"They have had teething pains, that's quite sure, but we have seen (this sort of thing before) and by the time of the Games themselves everything came into order so that is what I wish for my Indian friends," Rogge said.
Rogge was equally diplomatic when asked how the IOC could help improve cycling's image after the latest doping allegations involving Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
"We help cycling to rectify its own image by supporting cycling in its fight against doping ... the (International Cycling Union) are doing the right things but it is true the issue that came up in the last days does not help," Rogge said.
Contador has been provisionally suspended after a positive test for a very small concentration of a banned anabolic agent. Denying any wrongdoing, the Spaniard has blamed contaminated food and called for anti-doping rules to be revised.
Rogge also said the IOC would open negotiations for a new TV rights contract for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the first quarter of next year. He said the improved economic climate was more conducive for a more satisfactory deal.
"We are going to conduct discussions with the broadcasters in the first quarter of next year ... because advertising (revenues) are building up in the television world after the slump and the economic crisis in 2007 and 2008 but the economy is reviving and this is the right moment to start negotiations."
Rogge dismissed criticism from possible rival bidders to current rights holders NBC that the delay had given the U.S. broadcaster an unfair advantage in the talks.
"I don't see where there is an unfair advantage for NBC because NBC was by far the best bidder in the previous rights that were awarded in 2003. So I don't see why there would be criticism," he said.
(Additional reporting by Mustafa Abu Ghaniyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jon Bramley)
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