Olympic bribery scandal threatens to shrink 2002 Winter Games
January 13, 1999
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sought Wednesday to reassure big financial backers who are alarmed about a bribery scandal involving the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
The IOC and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating allegations that members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) offered favors and bribes of up to $70,000 to some IOC members in exchange for votes for the Utah city to host the 2002 Winter Games.
"We're very concerned about those allegations," said Norman Black, spokesman for United Parcel Service, whose agreement with the IOC runs out after the 2000 Summer Games.
"We see this as something that threatens the image ... of the Olympics. I think that is the way most sponsors feel," added Black. UPS wants an adequate investigation before it decides whether to renew any commitment to the IOC.
"It is not enough just to punish and to hold people accountable for what's done," said Susan Rosenberg of UPS. "But it's to set in place procedures and process to make sure it can't happen again."
IOC representative Michael Payne was in Atlanta for talks with executives at UPS, Coca-Cola Co. and Home Depot Inc. All three companies are based in the Georgia capital city.
"The company is deeply, deeply concerned," Jerry Shields, spokesman for building supplier Home Depot, said.
"If the allegations are true, they certainly would impugn the principles of the Games, but it appears the IOC is looking into that and presumably will take swift and thorough action," said Shields.
The 11 top sponsors each contribute an estimated $40 million to $50 million to the IOC.
Coca-Cola has recently been the No. 1 backer, reportedly spending up to $250 million on the Summer Games.
Coke spokesman Ben Deustch said Payne told the company the IOC board expects to make changes in the bidding process for the Games and will recommend "expulsion" of certain IOC members.
But the IOC is only part of the fund-raising apparatus for the Games. Salt Lake City's Olympic organizers have to raise $1.4 billion. So far, only 75 percent of that has been raised.
If the city comes up short, Utah's governor says the IOC should shoulder the weight -- or Utah might just change its plans.
"The International Olympic Committee has given me their personal assurance that they will be willing to work together to make certain these Games are successful," said Gov. Mike Leavitt.
"Another option is for us to rework and resize the Games in a way that will fit within the available Olympic revenues," Leavitt added.
What resources become available depends on how strongly businesses want to identify with the Games in light of the ongoing investigation.
Correspondent Aram Roston and Reuters contributed to this report.
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