If you listen to the hype from NBC, the greatest athletes in the
world will be performing for you on your television screen during the
last two weeks in September. Of course, NBC has paid the International
Olympic Committee $3.5 million over the next nine years for the
privilege of bringing sports fans across the globe the Olympic games and
is reaping $900 million this year alone in sales of commercial time. If
you haven't noticed, it's again time for the quadrennial summer Olympiad
and each night NBC will give you five hours of tightly scheduled viewing
-- a deal arranged by Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports and close
personal friend of Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC.
You can be sure the NBC programming will highlight Samaranch as he
presides over his last Olympiad. After all Ebersol has been one of
Samaranch's strongest supporters in the United States. We will see him
standing in front of the Olympic flame, as he has in the past,
administering the Olympic oath. In addition, I predict we will see an
"up close and personal" NBC tribute to his Olympic accomplishments.
During the month leading up to the games we have already seen accolades
being showered upon him like the brilliant colors of the Olympic rings
from both the press and his colleagues in the Olympic movement. Yet,
the tarnish in the rings is still there and it keeps growing, especially
when one takes the time to see it.
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Andrew Jennings, a British journalist, who has written books and
countless articles on the corruption in the International Olympic
Committee, has just published his third book, "The Great Olympic
Swindle." In my WorldNetDaily column,
"The New Gold
Standard," in March 1999, I mentioned Jennings as the man who had uncovered the rampant bribery and payoffs to members of the IOC. During his testimony before the United States Senate in April 1999 Jennings proudly discussed the vendetta Antonio Samaranch has waged against his writing. On his
Web page and in chapter 10 of the latest book, he recounts the story of his Swiss jail sentence. When his book, "The Lords of the Rings," was first published in 1992 Samaranch was so displeased by its revelations that he sent a letter on behalf of the IOC to a local judge in Lausanne, Switzerland. The letter asked the judge to impose a jail sentence on Jennings because of the "libelous" and "scandalous" items in the book. The judge acquiesced. Of course, in the last 15 months the truth has emerged and we know that Jennings' allegations were neither libelous nor scandalous, but right on the mark. Several IOC members have been replaced and some Salt Lake City organizers are facing jail sentences.
In "The Great Olympic Swindle" Jennings continues to pursue his theme of brazen corruption in the IOC. This time the focus is on its close connection to organized crime, especially the Russian Mafia. In a 1998 meeting of the International Amateur Boxing Federation, Gafur Rakhimov of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, became a member of its Executive Committee. Jennings reveals the story of how Rakhimov, a man with a long dossier at the FBI, the Chief Directorate for Fighting Economic Crime at the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the French Interior Ministry became one of the leading figures in amateur boxing.
On July 22, 2000,
The London Daily Express ran a
story describing Rakhimov as "'the godfather of Tashkent' -- capital of the former Soviet Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, a booming centre for heroin traffic from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle of South East Asia into Britain and the rest of Western Europe." The Daily Express even reported at that time that Australian officials were "facing demands to ban Rakhimov" from entering the country at the time of the Olympic games, because of his well-known drug connections.
Last weekend the Australian government citing "serious issues of character" did deny entry visas to Gafur Rakhimov and Carl Ching of Hong Kong on the basis of their ties to organized crime: Rakhimov in Uzbekistan and Ching in Hong Kong. IOC President Samaranch immediately sprang into action. He sent a letter to Australian Prime Minister Howard stating, "This is a matter of most serious concern for the
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In previous Olympics no one has been excluded. Anyone labeled an "accredited official" was allowed entry into the country hosting the Olympic games regardless of their political or legal status. According to IOC Vice President Dick Pound, "Basic principle fundamental to the staging of the Games is that everyone is allowed to come and don't run foul of
problems." But Rakhimov wasn't the only Uzbekistan official running afoul of Australian law. The day before Rakhimov tried to enter Australia, the luggage of another Uzbekistan official had been found to contain vials of a human-growth compound, a drug banned from the Olympics.
According to the Sept. 13
Herald not only has the Uzbekistan government voiced its concerns to the Australian government over the banishment of Gafur Rakhimov, but Rakhimov has initiated "libel suits ... against The Great Olympic Swindle author, Andrew Jennings, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and Four Corners television program for prominently publishing Mr. Jennings' allegations."
While Rakhimov is suing the press, the IOC, which has promised more openness in its dealings with the press and public, banned all press from the Regent Hotel, the headquarters for the IOC during the Olympic games. However, we can be sure that there is one group of newsmen who will have unlimited access to the IOC, Samaranch, and the sporting venues the ones who paid to get in Dick Ebersol and his NBC team.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The IOC is still a closed corporation. Samaranch has built it that way and intends to keep it that way. Dick Ebersol and NBC will only air events and stories that Samaranch and the IOC want the world to see -- the fairy tale version of Olympic competition. As I wrote last March, "it is Samaranch and the other handpicked members of the IOC who own the gold and thereby rule."