QUEBEC - The president of the International Olympic Committee diplomatically sidestepped the question Tuesday of whether student strife in Quebec could hurt any bids by the province to hold international sports events.
Jacques Rogge said he is aware of the bitter dispute, which has seen widespread rioting in Montreal attract international attention.
"We mustn't mix (social debates) with sports," Rogge told reporters during a brief news conference before joining an event attended by 4,000 people in support of amateur sports.
Rogge expressed concern over the protests, which have escalated since the passing of a special law to limit them. He said social turmoil is regrettable.
"Any social unrest is always something everybody regrets," he said.
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume has made it clear he would love his city to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Rogge did not address the student conflict in his speech to a sports conference, instead praising Canada's dedication to amateur sports.
He also noted that Canada is in a select group that have hosted Olympics three times — Montreal in 1976, Calgary in 1988 and Vancouver in 2010.
The IOC chief also attended a benefit lunch aimed at raising money for Canadian athletes. It took in about $800,000.
Quebec students have been protesting for more than three months against tuition fee increases.
Premier Jean Charest, who attended the same event as Rogge, tried to downplay the student conflict, saying people are able to put things in context.
The Quebec City event was interrupted briefly by a tuxedo-clad man who walked in front of the stage as Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut was about to speak.
"Think of our Quebec youths who are being gassed and clubbed," the man said before exiting.
Aubut brushed off the event, saying although he was not happy about it, the incident was pretty minor when compared with what has been happening in Quebec.
"And he was wearing a tuxedo,'' Aubut joked. ''He was better dressed than the rest of us."