In Salt Lake, suspicion that others did it, too

2002 Olympic organizers feel unfairly singled out for a bribery scandal

January 17, 1999|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY -- After helping Salt Lake City chase the Winter Olympics for the past 10 years, Myles C. Rademan is sad and disappointed by the scandal that shrouds the 2002 Games.

"Now everything is being filtered through this lens of bribery and corruption," said Rademan, spokesman for Park City, a resort area about 32 miles from Salt Lake where 40 percent of the 2002 events will be held.

"The thing that saddens me most is that people think that we're an inferior product that won by buying votes."

The general mood here, as ugly allegations continue to surface, is of disappointment rather than shock. Many believe their city is being unfairly singled out for practices that they believe are common.

"I don't think we completely care," said Marcie Montgomery, a student at the University of Utah. "I'm not surprised that there was a scandal. I wouldn't be surprised if all this happened previously."

Problems began for Salt Lake in November, when a local television station reported that a high-ranking official in the local effort to win the Games had acknowledged that tuition payments had been made to help win the support of the International Olympic Committee.

Then a senior IOC official from Switzerland alleged that up to 25 of the 114 IOC members in the past may have sold their votes on where to place the Games.

Since then, G. Frank Joklik, president and chief executive of the Salt LakeOrganizing Committee, has admitted that IOC members received cash payments, medical care, expensive gifts, scholarships, trips and, in one case, help in putting together a real estate deal.

Joklik, who claimed no personal knowledge of misdeeds, resigned nine days ago. David Johnson, senior vice president of the Games, also resigned, and Tom Welch, president of the earlier bid committee, was stripped of his $10,000-a-month consulting contract and pension.

Inquiries and resignations

Two other SLOC employees have taken administrative leaves pending inquiries into their roles in bidding for the Games.

And late last week, the bribery controversy prompted the resignation of Alfredo La Mont, the senior director of international relations for the United States Olympic Committee. He stepped down after being linked to a scheme to buy information about IOC members from Latin America.

On Friday, the president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, announced that the committee will meet Jan. 24 in Lausanne, Switzerland, to review the selection process. Several IOC members are expected to resign or be expelled.

The U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Olympic Committee are also investigating. Salt Lake City, however, apparently has dodged one bullet.

Although there had been concern that the city might lose the Games in the wake of the scandal, IOC member Anita DeFrantz said last week that the organization is committed to holding the Winter Games in Salt Lake in 2002.

Financial assistance

Yesterday, Samaranch said in a published interview that the IOC might help the 2002 Games cope with any financial shortfall caused by the bribery scandal. Salt Lake received another bit of good news yesterday when U S West presented a check for $5 million to organizers. The donation had been held up amid the scandal.

The 2002 Games already are a presence throughout Salt Lake, from the ice skaters carved in new highway overpasses to flags and T-shirts for sale everywhere you turn. The jokes are rampant, too.

Kristen Bailey, a salesclerk at the U.S. Olympic Spirit Store in the Crossroads Mall downtown, complains: "You hear people go by the store and say, `Oh, there's the bribery store. Maybe if we bribe her, she'll give us a discount.'

"I just get sick of it."

Despite the controversy and the jokes, business is brisk. Last week, for instance, on the day the store offered 42 of 1,000 commemorative lapel pins, Bailey sold all but three within four hours of the store's opening. And the coveted collector's item, at $20, is strictly one to a customer.

9,000 volunteers

The work leading up to the Games continues. About 9,000 volunteers have signed up to help, and the SLOC is receiving more calls every day, said Frank Zang, an SLOC spokesman.

About 100 people attended a night meeting last week to talk about expectations for the Games and ways to welcome visitors. Only a passing mention was made of the scandal.

"It was reaffirming," said Renee M. Tanner, director of Olympic Opportunities and a liaison between the city and SLOC.

Discussions ranged from planning neighborhood festivals to acting as hosts for athletes' families, she said. Already each school has adopted a country, and students will be taught to sing the national anthem in that country's language to honor athletes in the Olympic Village.

Part of the hope for the 2002 Games -- 1,018 days away -- is that the world will find truth in Utah's slogan: "The Greatest Snow on Earth."

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