1999 will be remembered as the year of scandals. In the United States
it began with the Senate trial of President Clinton and with each new
passing day more national and international scandals seem to emerge. On
Tuesday March 16, 1999, The New York Times front page contained stories
of two new international scandals. Is it any wonder that so many people
believe mankind has lost its moral compass and that the Ten Commandments
is really only a movie?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has met and decided the
fate of those who have been involved in the bribery scandal involving
the awarding of the 2000 winter Olympics to Salt Lake City, Utah.
President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who finally admitted receiving
outlandish gifts from the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee, prevailed by
an overwhelming majority as President of the IOC, the pinnacle of the
Olympic movement. Six members of the IOC were expelled. Many of them
blamed their fate on the avarice of the various Olympic Organizing
Committees who tempted them with favors. It’s tragic that the present
requirements for leadership in the Olympic movement pale by comparison
to the standards the IOC professes to require of Olympic athletes. Shame
on the entire IOC.
But no one should really be surprised. Today’s Olympics with their
“Dream Teams” of professional athletes can’t hold a candle to the
Olympics of Jim Thorpe and Jesse Owens. The Olympics, which were reborn
over 100 years ago, don’t exist anymore. For those who are too young to
remember, it used to be that any commercialism or hint of remuneration
for athletes or anyone else would bar an athlete or a team from
participation and bring shame upon the country represented by those
Then countries realized the propagandistic value of winning “at
sport” as well as war. The Olympic Games were just one more weapon in
the international struggle between states. Several totalitarian
countries — Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany, and Franco’s Spain
– understood the value of athletic heroes and turned Olympic
athleticism into a nationalistic force. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the just
re-validated President of the IOC, served as Spain’s sports czar under
Franco, where he used athletes to promote the glory of Spain’s fascist
During the Cold War the Soviet Union turned grooming Olympic athletes
from early childhood into a full time occupation. In fact, these
athletes, their coaches, and their families were hailed as heroes of the
revolution and were treated as members of the privileged class.
As the competition reached professional levels, the competitors,
their coaches and their governments searched for new methods of bringing
home the gold. One of those methods was the use of performance enhancing
drugs. One of the many sports that have been tarnished by the use of
drugs by Olympic winners is swimming. And it is alleged that, although
the IOC condemns “doping,” there have been numerous instances where
prize athletes have continued to compete despite failing drug tests.
The total commitment needed by Olympic competition as well as the
professionalism of Russian Block athletes led to the easing of
restrictions against financial assistance and sponsorships. The final
death knell to any perception of amateurism was the U.S. basketball team
which included only professional basketball players such as Michael
Jordan, Scotty Pippen and Magic Johnson, all at the height of their
professional careers. No other basketball team from any nation had a
prayer of a chance. Gold medals have become the springboards to fame and
fortune. A picture on the Wheaties box led to millions in the bank.
But the frenzy for Olympic gold begins at the top of the powerful,
closed transnational corporation. The members of the IOC answer to no
one and are treated like royalty whenever they meet. During the 1996
Olympics in Atlanta the 106 members of the IOC — only seven are women
– stayed in luxury at the Hyatt Regency where prior to their arrival
awaited 9,000 cases of beer, 1,800 cases of wine and 600 cases of
To enable themselves to partake of this largess every two years, the IOC split the game into an every other year format.
This, of course,
led to more venues and enabled the IOC members to be wined and dined by
cities around the globe, who were vying for the next available Olympics.
The Salt Lake City scandal is but the tip of the iceberg. As more and
more bribes and payoffs have surfaced, more and more cities have been
“outed.” This week the Toronto Ontario Olympic Committee (TOOC) made
public their 1989 financial statements. The TOOC in their quest for
Olympic gold developed an interesting way of circumventing IOC rules
limiting visits to potential host cities. Under the ruse of a party for
a retiring Canadian delegate they hosted not only a party in Toronto but
then flew the IOC members and members of the TOOC to Puerto Rico for a
meeting. During the plane trip and at the IOC Board meeting TOOC
wooed the delegates with food and drink.
Sydney, Australia, which is scheduled to host the 2002 Summer Games,
is also under scrutiny for the manner in which it courted the IOC. A
recent report listed extraordinary gifts given to members of the IOC in
an effort to have them vote to place the millennium games in Sydney. The
independent investigator, Tom Sheridan, stated there is no evidence
of “large-scale bribery” as in Salt Lake City.
However, some of
those expelled IOC members were caught in the 2002 Sydney scandal.
Yet, all this bribery and influence peddling by governments and
corporations to catch gold rings has been well documented. A British
author, Andrew Jennings, has been on a bold crusade against Juan Antonio
Samaranch and IOC corruption since the 1992 publication of his book,
Dishonored Games: Corruption, Money and Greed at the Olympics, written
with author Vyv Simson. He has also written numerous magazine articles
on the subject.
Jennings’ premise is simple: If you believe the hype that the
Olympics belong to the peace-loving athletes of the world, then you must
still believe in Santa Claus. After all the Olympic Charter is very
straightforward: “The Olympic Games are the exclusive property of the
IOC, which owns all rights thereto.” Thus it is Samaranch and the other
handpicked members of the IOC who own the gold and thereby rule.
The IOC is trying to burnish the tarnish off the gold rings during
its meeting this week. They have thrown six of their own to the wolves.
Everyone connected with the IOC is now trying to shift the blame for
their transgressions to the competing cities that tempted IOC members.
They have even vowed to “overhaul” their site selection process. But
what we should have seen was the resignation of Juan Antonio Samaranch,
followed by 102 of his closest friends. The life of a member of the IOC,
like the life of an U.S. President, is much too powerful to give up.
The Gold Rings, like the Lincoln bedroom, seduce all who have forgotten
what the Ten Commandments are all about.