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Poor Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic
Committee (IOC). Not only was he invited to testify before the U.S.
Senate, but now Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Senate
Commerce Committee, is requesting monthly reports on his progress in
cleaning up the corruption in the IOC. It was only four weeks ago that
the IOC gave President Samaranch a vote of confidence. At that time I
took the contrary position, when I wrote in,
“The New Gold Standard,”
“what we should have seen was the resignation of Juan Antonio Samaranch”

So I was extremely gratified when two members of the U.S. Senate
agreed with my conclusion during last Thursday’s hearing before the
Senate Commerce Committee on the Salt Lake City Olympic scandal. Both
Senators Bryan (D-Nev.) and Hollings (D-S.C.) called for the resignation
of the IOC President. “It’s time for Juan Antonio Samaranch to resign,”
said Bryan, adding, “No credible reform can be undertaken … unless he
steps down.”

When Sen. McCain invited Samaranch to testify, he fully expected the
IOC President to show up. After he sent a woman, IOC Vice President
Anita DeFrantz, to take the heat, McCain grumbled that when he holds
hearings, “CEOs come and testify.” I presume Samaranch knows, as I do,
that testifying before a hostile Congressional Committee can be
extremely unpleasant. After all, how was he going to explain why he and
at least 10 other members of the IOC were on the receiving end of $1.2
million in cash, scholarships and other gifts from the Salt Lake City
Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOC).

After reviewing the list of reforms proposed by the former U.S.
Senator George Mitchell and his independent USOC panel with Ms. DeFrantz
and other Olympic officials, McCain was clearly unsatisfied with their
responses. DeFrantz readily admitted that the IOC had allowed and even
condoned the taking of gifts by its members and stated, “We are moving
at warp speed for an international organization” towards fixing the
problems. And she acknowledged that, “the IOC must become more
transparent and more accountable.” However, when queried specifically
on the proposed reforms she and others stonewalled. Open meetings,
publication of minutes, and financial disclosure all were out of the
question.

The skeptical and sometime hostile Senators did not appear to be
comforted by Ms. DeFrantz’ answers. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ala.), Chairman
of the powerful Appropriations Committee, angrily denounced the IOC by
stating, “I want to demonstrate to the IOC that we have the power in
this country to deny the IOC the one thing it really wants — money.”
Stevens also said that he and McCain also would push legislation to
insure that the U.S. Olympic committee — and not the IOC — has full
U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics after the current contract ends in
2002.

There appeared to be unanimity of support from the Senators when
McCain announced that he was immediately introducing legislation to
place the IOC under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, thereby making
any bribery of IOC officials an illegal activity under federal law. In
addition, Senator John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) stated, “he was keeping open the
option of removing the federal tax deduction that federal tax law
provides for contributions made to the International Olympic Committee.”

While DeFrantz was testifying in Washington, Samaranch sent another
surrogate to London to assure sponsors that if “an ethical lapse” on the
part of the IOC occurs again, there will be an escape clause in their
future contracts. A tactic that some have likened to locking the barn
door after the horse escaped.

But many sponsors are privately expressing their skepticism. In the
last few days several sponsors have gone public with their doubts. John
Hancock president David D’Alessandro predicted in Sunday’s
Boston
Globe,

”I think we’ll see a great flurry of activity, with some discussion of
how they may change slightly how people are chosen and maybe some term
limits.

“Then Samaranch will declare victory and exit … I don’t think
you’re going to see a great culture change.”

Then on Monday, April 19, 1999 Johnson & Johnson announced its
decision to drop its $30 million sponsorship of the Salt Lake City
games.

Although the SLOC commitments exceed the total contributions raised
in Atlanta, no new commitments have been added since the bribery scandal
erupted. According to John Krimsky, deputy secretary-general of the
U.S. Olympic Committee and the Games’ chief fundraising officer, “The
sponsors … are assessing the environment in which we find ourselves
every single day.” The SLOC appears to be in trouble: a new President,
reassessments by sponsors, a shortfall in available cash, and several
ongoing investigations.

And if that isn’t enough, a split appears to be developing between
the SLOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) over who is paying for
promoting the Salt Lake City winter Olympics. Since the SLOC shortfall
is estimated at $300 million dollars, its new President Mitt Romney has
prepared a list of items to cut. One of the first items on the cut list
is the $5 million needed for operating the Utah Winter Sports Park where
bobsled, luge and ski jumping athletes were scheduled to train for the
next two years. As a result the Utah Sports Park’s transfer from the
taxpayers of Utah to the SLOC has been put on hold leaving the athletes
figuratively and literally out in the cold.

So the story of arrogance, corruption and greed goes on. The IOC
quickly dismissed McCain’s request for monthly reports. Is this the end
of the modern Olympics where athletes competed for “the love of sport?”
Or will Samaranch and the IOC do the right thing: resign for the good of
sport. If Samaranch’s responses to the Senate are any indication, the
answer is an unequivocal NO.

A reader, Carl Valentine, sent me an e-mail after my first column on
the subject. He wrote “the Olympic gold medals are made of pot metal,
then gold plated, check it out — how cheap can you get?” Well, Carl,
the Olympic rings are no longer gold and the plating was tarnished a
long time ago.

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