BEIJING — Jacques Rogge is so bought, so compromised, the president of the IOC doesn't have the courage to criticize China for telling a decade of lies to land itself these Olympic Games.
All the promises made to get these Games — on Tibet, Darfur, pollution, worker safety, freedom of expression, dissident rights — turned out to be phony, perhaps as phony as the Chinese gymnasts' birthdates Rogge was way too slow to investigate.
One of the most powerful men in sports turned the world away from his complicity. Instead, he has flexed his muscles by unloading on a powerless sprinter from a small island nation.
Rogge's ripping of Usain Bolt's supposed showboating in two of the most electrifying gold-medal performances of these Games has to be one of the most ill-timed and gutless acts in the modern history of the Olympics.
"That's not the way we perceive being a champion," Rogge said of the Jamaican sprinter. "I have no problem with him doing a show. I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters."
Oh, this is richer than those bribes and kickbacks the IOC got caught taking.
All the powerful nations — including the United States — have carte blanche at the Games. They can pout and preen, cheat, throw bean balls, file wild complaints, break promises that got them a host bid, whatever they want. They can take turns slapping Rogge and his cronies around like rag dolls as long as the dinner with a good wine list gets paid.
A single individual sprinter? Even if you don't like his manner, that's whom Rogge deems it necessary to attack, to issue a worldwide condemnation?
"I understand the joy," Rogge said. "He might have interpreted that in another way, but the way it was perceived was 'catch me if you can.' You don't do that. But he'll learn. He's still a young man."
Perceived by whom? Old fat cats making billions of Olympic dollars on the backs of athletes like Bolt for a century now? They get to define this? They get to lecture about learning?
Bolt is everything the Olympics are supposed to be about. He isn't the product of some rich country, some elaborate training program that churns out gold medals by any means necessary.
He's a breath of fresh air, a guy who came out of nowhere to enrapture the world with his athletic performance and colorful personality. This is no dead-eye product of some massive machine.
He was himself, and the world loved him for it.
On his own force of will, Bolt has become the break-out star of these Games. He saved the post-Michael Phelps Olympics. It wasn't so much his world-record times, but the flair, the fun.
No one at the track had a problem with this guy; they understood he is everything the sport needs to recover from an era of extreme doping. The Lightning Bolt made people care about track again, something that seemed impossible two weeks ago.
"I don't feel like he's being disrespectful," American Shawn Crawford told the Associated Press. "He deserves to dance."
Apparently, Rogge would prefer 12-year-old gymnasts too frightened to crack a smile.
It got better when, in the same press conference, he pretended to forget all the lies China told him to get this bid, all the troubles, all the challenges, and praised the host nation. Yes, these have been an exceptionally well-run Games from a tactical standpoint, and the Chinese people have displayed otherworldly kindness.
None of which denies the promises broken, the innocent jailed, the freedoms denied — the kind of issues someone with Jacques Rogge's standing should be talking about.
He has no spine for that. Not for China. Not for any big country. He had to criticize someone, he had to make headlines, he had to show he was a tough guy. So who better than someone from somewhere that can't ever touch him back?
Yes, Usain Bolt is the problem of the Olympics. He's the embarrassment. He's the one who needs to learn.
Sure, Jacques, sure.
- Jacques Rogge