There’s a real-life Olympic telenovela unfolding in Brazil. It includes a Russian passport and piles of cash in multiple currencies. It features protagonist Carlos Nuzman, an Olympic bigwig who allegedly brokered a $2-million bribe as part of an elaborate vote-buying scheme that landed
Brazilian federal police teamed with French investigators who have long been tailing the
Brazilian journalist Jamil Chade published an email Nuzman sent to an associate of Lamine Diack that included details of a Swiss bank account. A search of Nuzman's home turned up papers about an account in Switzerland. Lamine Diack was scooped up by French authorities in 2015, accused of accepting bribes in exchange for concealing dirty drug tests.
When Brazilian police officials searched Nuzman’s home in Rio, they found $155,000 in cash as well as a Russian passport, which Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry suspects was a gift for supporting Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s bid to bring the
The sprawling vote-buying saga may yet implicate IOC members in Asia and South America, according to Brazilian media. French prosecutors are also investigating an eyebrow-raising $2.3-million payment that Tokyo 2020 bidders shuffled to a bank account in Singapore overseen by guess who? None other than Papa Massata Diack. An independent group — one commissioned by the Japanese Olympic Committee — cleared Tokyo 2020 bidders of any wrongdoing, but it did little to quell suspicions.
Turns out, the bracing allegations against Nuzman were old news to the IOC. In 2012, Eric Walther Maleson, the Olympic bobsledder turned Brazilian sports administrator, contacted the IOC to decry irregularities and corruption as Rio prepared to host the Games. But the IOC gave the president of the Brazilian Confederation of Ice Sports the cold shoulder, insisting that it did not have the power to conduct criminal investigations. The IOC told Maleson to take up his grievances with the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which was — wait for it — run by Nuzman.
The IOC also knew about the graft investigation through its behind-the-scenes participation with French prosecutors. Despite this, the IOC assigned Nuzman to the coordinating commission of the 2020 Games.
The wider lessons are twofold.
First, this wave of allegations is stark reminder that there is plenty of cash sloshing through the Olympic system. The problem, as we've seen in Olympic city after city, is that the money tends to flow into the pockets of well-connected political and economic elites. It's trickle-up economics with a dash of sporty panache. As Brazilian prosecutor Fabiana Schneider memorably put it, "The Olympic Games were used as a trampoline to commit Olympic-size acts of corruption." This is not merely a Rio problem but an Olympics problem, and one that L.A. will soon have to confront.
Second, the IOC’s deniability has become highly implausible. Olympic luminaries have long wagged a sanctimonious finger at
But there's a more specific and poignant lesson for the everyday people of Los Angeles: The IOC really doesn't care about you. When a powerful, unregulated monopoly such as the IOC descends on your town, it dominates the show, lapping up the accolades and deflecting negative attention. It does whatever it takes to protect its interests. Sometimes those interests overlap with local Games organizers, but when they don't, the IOC takes care of the IOC.
Just look at Rio. When Olympic organizers pleaded for around $35 million from the IOC to settle their debts, Bach and company flat out denied them. Yet, two days later, the IOC president was bragging about the $3.2 billion in assets in IOC coffers.
Then there’s Pyeongchang, the South Korean city that will host the
These actions may seem cruel, but they are not unusual when it comes to the IOC in the 21st century. Sure, the Olympic bidding process inevitably brings happy talk from IOC luminaries about the brilliance of the aspiring hosts. When Mayor
But in the pinch the IOC makes its priorities clear: the IOC. Sure, it may continue to follow the sun, but it'll be in private jets as members vamoose Los Angeles after the Games' closing ceremony, leaving L.A. to once again fend for itself.