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Rogge takes helm of the IOC

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Juan Antonio Samaranch still hospitalized, newly elected Jacques Rogge officially took over today as president of the International Olympic Committee.

Standing in for Samaranch, recovering from severe fatigue, first IOC vice president Keba Mbaye handed Rogge the keys to Chateau de Vidy, the IOC's marble headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva.

"It is painful circumstances that have brought me to present you the keys of the Olympic house," Mbaye said. "It is because our honorary life president Juan Antonio Samaranch is ill that I've been charged to hand you the keys that open Vidy and the Olympic movement to you.

"It is a symbol of the ship's wheel that you will now be guiding. It will be a difficult task as the ship has become overloaded, capricious and the ocean is tempestuous. But I know you are a good captain."

A smiling Rogge accepted the golden key before presenting Samaranch's son, Juan Antonio Jr., and daughter, Maria Teresa, with their own.

"At this moment, as I officially take the keys, my first words are for the one who should have taken a prominent part in the ceremony," Rogge said in front of 200 guests and journalists attending the ceremony at the Olympic museum. "Unfortunately, he could not be with us but he insisted himself the ceremony go on."

"Be reassured I understand the gravity of this moment and its symbolic importance. By handing me these keys you are entrusting me with the leadership of the International Olympic Committee and it is with great enthusiasm that I start my office as president of the IOC."

Rogge, a 59-year-old Belgian surgeon, was elected Monday in Moscow as the eighth president in the 107-year history of the IOC.

Samaranch, who had led the IOC for 21 years, collapsed early Wednesday during a radio interview with a Spanish station after his return flight from Moscow. The IOC said he was in stable condition and continuing to improve.

"Yesterday I visited the president at his hospital sickbed and asked him what he would like me to say at this ceremony," Mbaye recounted. "He answered: 'Nothing. Nothing.' Then he added, 'You know, the day before yesterday I almost died, but after our session in Moscow, after what we accomplished there, if I had died it would almost be in happiness.'

"Stay with us Juan Antonio," pleaded Mbaye. "We still need you, need your advice and council."

Samaranch had a grueling schedule in Moscow, where the host city for the 2008 Summer Games was chosen and the new IOC president was elected.

Meetings started at 9 a.m. daily with receptions or dinners in his honor most evenings. It was also hot and humid in the Russian capital, and many of the venues had no air conditioning.

At times during the Moscow session Samaranch looked shaky and tired. After Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games on Friday, he had to be reminded to sign the host games contract before ending the meeting.

But until the end Samaranch retained absolute control of the movement, snuffing out pleas from at least one IOC member for him to withdraw the nomination of his son as a member.

IOC director-general Francois Carrard told The Associated Press that Samaranch was now out of intensive care but needed to stay in hospital for a few more days' rest.