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Saturday, August 23, 2008
We cannot force change in China, says IOC chief


BEIJING, Aug 24 -- The International Olympic Committee is devoted to sports and cannot force changes in a sovereign state, IOC president Jacques Rogge said hours before the closing ceremony of the Beijing Games on Sunday.

Rogge has long defended the IOC's decision to host the Games in China after criticism from activist groups questioning Beijing's human rights track record. He says the IOC is not a political organization.

"The IOC and the Olympic Games cannot force changes on sovereign nations or solve all the ills of the world," Rogge told an IOC session in Beijing on the final day of the Aug. 8-24 Games.

"But we can -- and we do -- contribute to positive change through sport."

The IOC has been under constant attack in the months leading up to the Games, accused of doing nothing to pressure Beijing to improve human rights and change its policies towards Sudan's Darfur region and China's western region of Tibet.

Games organisers had promised several changes to existing policies including improvement of China's human rights and media freedom when they had won the Games, but not all were kept.

"The world learned more about China, and China learned more about the rest of the world. And together, we shared the excitement and drama of the Games," Rogge said.

"We are first and foremost an organization devoted to sport, but it is sport with a purpose.

"Placing sport at the service of mankind and leveraging Olympic values to promote better understanding between people, nations and religions stands at the core of our mission."

Rogge is due to hold the final Games news conference later in the day.