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Salt Lake City Olympic scandal

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the Games. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in potential profit, and an indelible mark on the global map. To opponents it's a colossal waste of tax dollars, a carnival of hype, spin and speculation. CBC Archives looks back at Canada's winning and losing Olympic bids.

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It's a scandal of Olympic proportions. The International Olympic Committee is reeling under allegations that some members accepted bribes of cash, gifts, even the service of prostitutes to give Salt Lake City the 2002 Winter Games. The IOC is investigating, some members are tendering their resignations, and corporate sponsors are getting skittish. Meanwhile, as we see in this clip, Canadians are watching closely. Calgary wants to pick up the pieces. Quebec City wants a refund.
. Rumours of bribery and excess had surrounded the International Olympic Committee for decades. In 1986, it was estimated that bidding cities spent a collective $50- to $70-million on bids for the 1992 games - about $800,000 per IOC voter. A luncheon in Berlin cost $5,000 a head. One report claimed that first-class airline tickets (redeemable in cash) were slipped under the hotel room doors of all IOC members the night before Seoul was awarded the 1988 Olympics.

. The scandal story broke on a Salt Lake City television station on Nov. 25, 1998.
. Among other things, there were accusations that IOC members had accepted thousands of dollars in cash, medical care and plastic surgery. Their children had apparently been given scholarships, jobs, even a piano solo with the local symphony.

. IOC vice-president Dick Pound was chosen to lead an investigation into the alleged corruption.
. Two months after the scandal broke, the IOC began expelling or sanctioning implicated members. Of the 14 members linked to Salt Lake City bid payoffs, four resigned and six were expelled. It was believed to be the first time in over a century that IOC members were expelled for corruption.

. In March 1999 the IOC recommended changes that included the creation of an ethics commission and election reforms. Since the scandal, only members of a small evaluation committee are allowed to visit bidding cities.

. There were no criminal charges stemming from the Salt Lake City scandal.
. Member Kim Un-yong, who became IOC vice president in 2003, received a severe warning over the scandal. In June 2004 a South Korean court sentenced him to two and a half years in prison for embezzling money from taekwondo federations and accepting bribes.

. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch apologized for the Salt Lake scandal and promised to clean house. That wasn't good enough for many critics, including Canadian Olympic hero and IOC member Mark Tewksbury. Tewksbury said the scandal sullied the 100-metre backstroke gold medal he won at Barcelona in 1992. "For the first time in my life, when somebody says 'Oh, you are an Olympic champion,' I have to think really hard and long about what that means," Tewksbury said.

. Tewksbury demanded Samaranch's resignation. "Sorry isn't good enough," he said. "You have led Olympism to its lowest point in history."
. On Feb. 4, 1999, Tewksbury resigned from all involvement in the Olympic movement, saying he had lost confidence in IOC leadership. He had been a member of the IOC Site Evaluation Commission and a Toronto 2008 bid committee executive. Tewksbury went on to work as an author, motivational speaker and advocate for good sportsmanship.

. Juan Antonio Samaranch led the IOC from 1980 to 2001. A former member of General Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship in Spain, Samaranch was known for being autocratic and intolerant of dissent. Despite calls for his resignation, he held on to his job in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal. In 2001 he stepped down and was replaced by Belgian orthopedic surgeon Jacques Rogge.

. Quebec City spent approximately $12 million on its Olympic bid, with $1 million going towards IOC travel and hospitality expenses. Mayor Jean-Paul L'Allier said he wanted the money returned to compensate the city's athletes. No money was returned.
. L'Allier decided not to sue the IOC since damage to Quebec City's bid would have been tough to prove. "The only ones that would win the gold, silver and bronze medals would be the lawyers," he said.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Jan. 12, 1999
Guest(s): Anita DeFrantz, Robert Garff, Frank King, René Paquet
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Tom Kennedy
Duration: 2:47

Last updated: September 20, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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