Scandal Heats Up Globally
Acknowledging for the first time that the widening scandal enveloping the Olympics is affecting negotiations with potential sponsors, the Olympics’ marketing director nonetheless said Wednesday that no corporate sponsors have demanded or even suggested that International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch step down.
Several current and former Olympic officials have called on Samaranch to take responsibility for the scandal--which erupted last month with allegations of bribery in Salt Lake City’s winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games--and resign.
With Salt Lake organizers still needing to raise $250 million of their projected $1.45-billion budget, IOC marketing chief Michael Payne said Wednesday that the scandal has made some potential sponsors take a wait-and-see attitude. However, those sponsors already committed have not wavered, he said. And in a reference to Samaranch, he added, “The international players understand the complexities of the issues and the importance at this particular stage for stability.”
Payne’s remarks came amid a day of furious developments in the widening scandal embroiling the Olympic movement. Revelations from around the world illuminated the culture of luxury and the opportunity for corruption that have been inherent for years in the Olympic bidding process:
* A key official on the committee that landed the 1998 Winter Olympics for Nagano told the Washington Post that 10 large boxes--packed with papers documenting how the tiny city spent more than $14 million in its winning bid--were burned in the city incinerator in 1992.
The documents detailed records of trips to Japan for 62 IOC members that included first-class air fare, fine hotels and wining and dining, Junichi Yamaguchi said. Samaranch, who enjoyed all-expenses-paid lodging in a five-star hotel on his trips to Nagano, also was presented with gifts, including an ornate sword and an oil painting.
Yamaguchi maintained that the documents had been burned as a “courtesy” to IOC members. If documents had been made public, it “could cause unpleasantness to them,” he said, adding, “We didn’t want that.”
Meanwhile, another news account from Nagano said that some IOC officials inspecting the city’s suitability for the 1998 Games were entertained by geishas paid by the city’s bidders. Sumikazu Yamaguchi, a senior member of the bid committee, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that all the geishas did was “pour drinks and perform Japanese dance.”
* Prince Frederic von Saxe-Lauenberg, a member of an Olympic support group called the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee, told a newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, that six African IOC delegates asked for new cars during Melbourne’s unsuccessful bid for the 1996 Summer Games. Melbourne boosters “turned it down, of course,” the prince told the Melbourne Age, “but then there were other demands like the sexual favors from the Melbourne brothels--they weren’t provided, either, because the Melbourne bid was quite clean.”
The scandal stems from allegations that IOC members or their relatives received cash payments, free medical care, college scholarships, help with real estate deals and other enticements from boosters in connection with Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2002 Games.
Three separate investigations into the Games are ongoing--by the U.S. Department of Justice, by the U.S. Olympic Committee and by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s ethics panel.
A fourth is being conducted by the IOC itself.
Utah Atty. Gen. Jan Graham announced Wednesday she would review the IOC and Salt Lake organizing committee reports and launch a separate investigation if it appears state law was violated.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the IOC investigation will recommend disciplinary action, including expulsion, for as many as 16 members for accepting more than $780,000 in payments and gifts from Salt Lake Olympic officials. The Associated Press previously had reported, citing a source close to the investigation, that 13 members had been implicated--nine of serious matters, four of lesser infractions.
As he arrived in New York on Wednesday for a meeting with others on the IOC panel, the head of the inquiry, IOC vice president Dick Pound of Canada said “solid, irrefutable evidence” indicates that at least a dozen IOC members or their relatives received cash, gifts or other enticements from boosters or organizers of the Salt Lake City Games.
In several cases, the amounts exceeded $100,000, Pound said.
He told the Washington Post: “When you see it in black and white, it’s pretty blatant stuff, so I don’t think the people involved are going to be able to explain it away. But we’ll see.”
The Wall Street Journal, citing a draft of Pound’s report, said it is the Justice Department review and the threat of criminal prosecution that most concerns the IOC. The draft report called it “the biggest potential problem,” the Journal said.
The Justice Department inquiry is likely to take months, although a grand jury in Salt Lake already has issued subpoenas. A former secretary for the Salt Lake City organizing committee met Wednesday with Justice Department officials, the Washington Post reported.
The Wall Street Journal also said the IOC will try to convince U.S. authorities that no federal laws have been broken. “There may have been questionable and objectionable behavior, but nothing criminal,” it said, quoting the draft report.
So far, one IOC member implicated in the scandal has resigned. Pirjo Haggman, 47, an IOC member from Finland, quit Tuesday amid revelations that her ex-husband had been provided a government forestry job in Canada with the help of the Toronto committee that unsuccessfully bid for the 1996 Summer Games; she denied wrongdoing.
In Australia, Charles Mukora, an IOC member from Kenya, confirmed Wednesday that he is under scrutiny. The IOC investigation, he said, wants clarification about his travel to Salt Lake City. Mukora, in Melbourne to inspect sites for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, said there has been no wrongdoing on his part.
IOC investigators are due to convene this weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland, to conclude their inquiry and make further recommendations.
The IOC’s executive board can suspend any members found guilty of serious misconduct. A special general assembly is scheduled for March 17-18 to vote on expulsions.
Times Staff Writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this story.