KUWAIT CITY // The world may be ravaged by the economic downturn and terrorist attacks. But Asia has something to cheer about - it continues to emerge as a sporting force. This is the assessment of none other than Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, who yesterday paid rich tribute to the continent.
Although Europe and the United States are still dominant, "Asia is catching up very fast and this is the reflection definitely of the dynamism of your continent", Rogge said at a meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). Rogge congratulated Asia for winning 212 medals from among 19 countries at last year's Beijing Olympics. Nearly half were won by host nation China, which collected 100 overall medals, including 51 gold. The United States won the overall medal count with 110, including 36 gold.
On other issues, Rogge said security against terrorism will always be a priority, especially after the recent attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan. Rogge said sport was "not immune from the evils of society" and "we live in a dangerous world". "We believe, however, within the sports community, there is peace and there is understanding," he said. "You don't see problems between athletes and we hope that this example of sport could reflect a little bit in society too."
The ambush by militants in Lahore earlier this month killed six policemen and a driver, and wounded seven Sri Lankan players, an umpire and an assistant coach. It was highest profile terrorist attack on a sports team since 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Rogge also expressed confidence about Olympic finances amid the global economic downturn. He noted that the IOC have signed up nine international corporate sponsors for next year's Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
"But these nine sponsors are paying more money than did the 11 for Beijing. There are still a couple of sponsors in the pipeline," Rogge said. The OCA president, Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahed Al Sabah, said he was "very happy" with the preparations for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. He said marketing was "excellent" despite the financial crisis. "We have confidence that Guangzhou will hold one of the best games in Asia," Sheik Ahmed said yesterday.