The Games of the XXIX Olympiad - Beijing 2008 will take place from 8-24 August 2008. The eleven events which make up the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition will be sailed out of Qingdao from 9-21 August.
Looking ahead to the Beijing Games, ROGGE, who this year will receive the ISAF Beppe Croce Trophy for outstanding voluntary contribution to the sport of sailing, first focussed on rapid progress of the infrastructure.
'The venues are of course the most visible sign that preparations are progressing well,' he said. 'But in addition to this, my colleagues on the IOC's Coordination Commission, which will convene again mid-April, tell me on a regular basis that across the board, the Games organizers are doing a tremendous job.
'When the IOC awarded the Games to Beijing in 2001, it did so with the belief that, in addition to the technical excellence of the bid, the Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to the world of sport. What I have seen so far and what I look forward to seeing during the forthcoming visit of the Executive Board confirms that this belief not only still holds true, but indeed grows stronger every day.'
The Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre was universally praised for its outstanding facilities at the 2006 Olympic Test Event, with the venue set to leave to lasting legacy for sailing in Qingdao. The city also demonstrated its enthusiasm for Olympic Sailing, with buildings across the city dressed in banners advertising the regatta and over 40,000 tickets to the spectator areas sold over the ten-day event.
In 2006 Sailing Test Event was the very first for any of the Olympic sports and a second will follow this August. ROGGE pointed out the importance of these events in the countdown to Beijing, 'I have learnt through my Olympic experience that test events are key to the success of the Games. Great progress in venue construction should not mean that the organizers lose focus on other areas of Games preparations because it is in the moments when you lose your concentration that mistakes can creep in.
'Beijing and the co-host cities will host some 26 tests events throughout 2007 and these events will allow BOCOG to fine-tune and improve their process and operations before actually staging the Games. It is important, however, that these events are not treated on their own but as part of an integrated preparation for the Games because it is through learning the lessons from these events that BOCOG as an organization will achieve their objective of hosting successful Olympic Games in 2008.
'The whole point of the exercise is to learn from your experiences at these events and use that knowledge to help you operate in a better way at Games time. Should issues arise, it is important to have the systems in place to identify and assess those issues and work towards improvement by integrating all the entities that are involved in Games operations.'
Turning his attention towards the environment, the IOC President said, 'Good and healthy competition conditions for the athletes are of the utmost importance, a point which the IOC has stressed to the Games organizers and which they fully understand and are working hard to ensure they do their best to achieve.'
Whilst in Beijing, much of the environment focus has been on air quality, in Qingdao it is water quality that is paramount. The redevelopment of the Beihai Dockyard involved a massive cleanup operation of Fushan Bay, which will last beyond the Games as a legacy of Olympic Sailing in Qingdao.
Looking at his expectations for the Beijing Games, ROGGE commented, 'Above all, I expect great Games for the athletes. The Olympic Games are made for young people at the peak of their athletic career pursuing excellence. And I have no doubt that performing in a country where things are moving so fast and where modernity and tradition blend in a unique way will be a fascinating experience for the athletes of the world.'
ROGGE also looked forward to taking the Olympic Games to China for the first time. 'I also see the bringing of Olympic values to 1/5th of the world's population, through the Games and its associated education projects, as one of the most exciting things for the IOC today. It is nothing short of staggering to know that 400 million children in 500,000 elementary and secondary schools will learn from these Olympic education projects. As we look to the future - Vancouver 2010, London 2012 and beyond, the IOC is excited by the cultural exchanges and learnings that are to come.
'When walking through the streets of Beijing, the pride and enthusiasm of its people is palpable. It is therefore not surprising to hear that over 370,000 people have already applied to become Games-time volunteers for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games! Also, thanks to BOCOG's ticketing programme prices, people from a very wide range of income levels will be able to experience the Games, which is a great way to continue to build on the excitement that is already there and to ensure that the Beijing Games will have the unique atmosphere that only China and its people can offer.'
The Olympic Sailing Competition will take place in Qingdao from the 9-21 August, with the Medal Races taking place from 16-21 August. 22-23 August are scheduled as reserve days. Gold medals will be decided in eleven Olympic sailing events, featuring a total of 400 sailors.
Find out more at the ISAF Beijing 2008 Olympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/olympics2008.
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