Help us stamp out illegal gambling, Rogge urges China
Peter Simpson in Beijing
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has called on China to help stamp out the 'scourge' threatening global sport - illegal gambling. Rogge, writing in the China Daily, singled out China's contribution to the fight against what he describes as the corruption 'cancer'.
His appeal was made ahead of the first ever closed meeting of sports movements, governments, bookmakers and other international public organizations on Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they will attempt to thrash out ways to battle 'irregular and illegal sports betting'.
'China will be well represented at the meeting, with members of the Chinese Olympic Committee, including vice-president Wu Qi, sharing their knowledge of the betting market and laws regulating it in China,' Rogge said.
'We are looking forward to constructive discussions [with China] that we hope will eventually lead to a global definition and co-ordination of actions against irregular and illegal betting.'
China's co-operation will be seen as vital by the IOC. Lotteries are the only form of legal gambling on the mainland.
Mainland gamblers seeking the thrill of better returns turn instead to the black market and punt more than US$87 billion a year through offshore betting networks, according to estimates from China's Centre for Lottery Studies.
Mainland illegal gamblers along with those in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia make up the majority of the notorious East Asian illegal betting syndicates regularly accused of trying to rig the results of major sporting tournaments.
Such syndicates have clear connections to organised crime gangs, according to by Interpol.
'The potential for corruption is at an all-time high due in part to the advent of betting on the internet and the anonymity, liquidity and sheer volume it encompasses,' Rogge said.
'It can be argued that there are more temptations and pressure on athletes, coaches, officials and others to cheat for betting gains than at any other time in the past. What's worse, this cancer continues to go largely unregulated in many parts of the world.'
The mainland's sports scene - especially soccer - is tainted with allegations of corruption. The government last year launched a nationwide crusade to crack down on gambling and corruption in soccer, with top government sports officials and veteran stars among those arrested.
Rogge acknowledged illegal betting had yet to be detected at an Olympic Games - but he fears London 2012 could be targeted.
'We are not naive. We know the day will eventually come. We must be vigilant,' he said.
The amount, in billions of US dollars, mainland gamblers are believed to punt annually through offshore networks: $87b