Dreaming of Olympic gold? Get on the IOC gravy train

January 26, 1999|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Now I know what I want to be when I grow up.

A member of the International Olympic Committee.

They've got a few openings now, don't they? Six expulsions, three resignations, three other members still under investigation.

Put me in, Your Excellency, I'm ready to play.

Your Excellency, of course, is His Excellency, Juan Antonio Samaranch. That's what he demands to be called, even in Olympic contracts.

And he's not going anywhere, baby.

Samaranch -- president of the IOC, chancellor of the exchequer, whatever you want to call him -- said again yesterday that he does not plan to resign.

Perish the thought!

As Shakedown Juan sees it, the IOC needs him more than ever.

"In these moments," he said yesterday, "the Olympic movement is in real danger."

More to the point, his lifestyle is in real danger.

Where do I apply now that the IOC has purged nine of its 114 members, figuring that should make this inconvenient little scandal disappear?

Joining the Olympic Family is like hitting the lottery, only better.

Most lotteries offer cash prizes only. IOC membership meets virtually all of your decadent needs.

Wine, women, song.

First-class plane tickets, five-star hotels.

College scholarships, medical services, government jobs.

Choose one from Column A, one from Column B nah, make that all of Column A and all of Column B.

A good IOC member must choose a host city not only with a clear head, but also a full belly and greased palm.

Seriously, no one should be surprised that the Salt Lake City, Nagano and Sydney bids were less than pure. The entire "movement" is less than pure, right down to the pharmaceutically enhanced competitors.

Indeed, reading this stuff is like reading the Starr Report. Fascinating. Disgusting. But not exactly shocking.

Just as President Clinton shades the meaning of sex, the IOC shades the meaning of bribery.

Or is that hospitality?

When Salt Lake City bid for the 1998 Games, Samaranch demanded a private jet and limousines, the finest hotel room in the city and a particular type of NordicTrack for his workouts, a member of that bid committee told Time.

That was just for his visit.

And Salt Lake still had no chance.

Nineteen Japanese corporations contributed $20 million to build an Olympic museum on the banks of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland.

And yesterday, Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada confirmed that his city's bid provided IOC officials with all-expenses-paid trips to the ancient capital of Kyoto.

Tsukada earlier admitted to Time a $363,000 payment to a Swiss-based agency run by Goran Takacs, the son of Samaranch's friend, Artur Takacs.

All that helps explain why the Olympics came to a nondescript city with iffy snow, a city that was closer to the equator than any previous Winter Games site.

Don't ask for more details.

Nagano officials destroyed their records.

Not that Salt Lake City is innocent, but you could almost understand the mind-set of its organizers as they prepared their bid for 2002.

It was not unlike the mind-set of Maryland officials who stole the Cleveland Browns to return the NFL to Baltimore.

Salt Lake experienced its first Olympic disappointment in 1985, when the U.S. Olympic Committee designated Anchorage, Alaska, as its bid city.

"We did very little entertaining because we had been told not even to contact USOC members," former mayor Ted Wilson told Time.

Funny, Maryland Stadium Authority director Herb Belgrad used almost exactly the same words after Baltimore failed to land an NFL expansion team.

Salt Lake's next defeat was to Nagano, by four votes out of 88 total. This time, organizers felt that they jumped through every hoop for the IOC. They were ready to play dirty for 2002 -- even as the clear front-runner.

The Baltimore analogy goes only so far -- Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., did not bribe their way into the NFL. Still, Salt Lake's frustration led to similar desperation and even more outrageous conduct.

And now Shakedown Juan is squirming, if that's possible.

Samaranch yesterday promised to examine every bid from 1996 to 2006. He announced the creation of an ethics commission. And the IOC proposed a dramatic change in the selection process for the 2006 Winter Games.

Under the proposal, IOC members will be forbidden from visiting bid cities, and the host will be selected by a 15-person panel rather than the full 114-member committee.

In other words, instead of presenting gifts in person, cities should send them by overnight mail, concentrating their efforts not on the Fortune 500, but the Fortunate 15.

Indeed, even those unlucky IOC members who took the fall should continue living in grand style. If the IOC can't deliver a golden parachute, who can?

Indeed, as long as Shakedown Juan is in charge, joining the Olympic Family will be the equivalent of marrying for money.

All I want are three college scholarships, two sport-utility vehicles and a partridge in a pear tree.

Pretty reasonable, by IOC standards.

Where do I apply?

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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