Japan Probes Nagano Olympic Bid
TOKYO (AP) _ Nagano’s winning bid for the 1998 Winter Games is the latest focus of investigation in the growing Olympics corruption scandal.
The Japanese Olympic Committee on Thursday appointed a seven-member panel to look into the Nagano efforts after Mayor Tasuku Tsukada said there may have been ``excesses″ in the city’s dealings with IOC members.
The panel, headed by JOC secretary general Yushiro Yagi, was the sixth Olympic investigation to get under way and the first officially aimed at a city other than Salt Lake, which Nagano defeated by four votes.
Salt Lake City’s successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games, on its fifth try, has been the subject of inquiries by the Justice Department, the International and U.S. Olympic committees, an ethics panel of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and the Utah attorney general’s office.
Last weekend, the IOC expelled six members for taking more than $440,000 in cash, medical and travel expenses and lavish gifts from Salt Lake bidders. There have been four resignations and three other members remain under investigation in an unprecedented purge of IOC ranks.
In addition, the committee has asked all bid cities from the 1996 Summer Games onward to detail conduct of members or bid officials that might have broken the rules.
And _ while it is not considered a formal investigation _ the IOC has announced plans to send two top officials to Sydney, where the president of the Australia Olympic Committee said last week that he offered $70,000 in inducements to two African members the night before Sydney won the 2000 Games by two votes over Beijing.
In recent weeks, Nagano officials have disclosed how some IOC officials were wooed during the city’s bid, including all-expenses-paid trips to Kyoto, a tourist spot 150 miles from Nagano.
Some IOC officials also were entertained by geisha, and IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch received an expensive painting and Japanese sword.
JOC executive board member Chiharu Igaya, who also is an IOC member, has defended the lavish entertainment as ``normal.″
Tsukada, the Nagano mayor who also was one of the top officials of the bidding committee, on Monday acknowledged ``excesses″ in his city’s bid. Nagano bid officials have said they wined and dined the 62 visiting IOC officials, spending about $18,000 on each IOC official, including air fare.
Nagano’s bidding expense records are missing, which could complicate the investigation. A bid official said recently he had the books burned in 1992.
Meanwhile, a group of Nagano residents filed a civil lawsuit demanding that the state and city of Nagano, as well as two other towns that were the sites for the 1998 Games, return about $7 million in taxpayer money that allegedly went into the bid.
In other developments:
_ U.S. Olympic Committee president Bill Hybl said he had no plans to discuss possible changes in the IOC at a USOC executive committee meeting next month.
Responding to a New York Times article that the USOC was exploring ideas about restructuring the international committee, including term limits and outside elections, Hybl said any action by the American panel would have to wait until the completion of a report on Salt Lake by its ethics commission, led by former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell.
Hybl also contradicted a Times report that he wanted IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to resign. ``That is not an area we have speculated on,″ he said.
_ A senior IOC official said the bribery scandal had been blown out of proportion and there was no reason for Samaranch to apologize.
Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, also suggested the ``underlying″ reason for the controversy was a plot to oust Samaranch.
_ The Justice Department was trying to tell whether a Salt Lake Olympic official carried about $50,000 to Budapest, Hungary, in 1995 when the 2002 Winter Games were awarded.
FBI agents interviewed former Salt Lake City Councilman Tom Godfrey, who has said the official was a staff member of the Salt Lake Olympic bid committee. Godfrey was a member of the delegation that traveled to Budapest in June 1995.
_ A senior Chinese Olympic official called for stripping Sydney of the 2000 Games. Chinese Olympic Committee honorary president He Zhenliang was quoted as saying he was ``extremely furious″ over the $70,000 inducements.
_ The head of the IOC investigation of Olympics corruption said he might consider stepping aside on cases of bid cities that could present at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Dick Pound, an IOC vice president from Canada, said he might choose not be take part in reviewing bids from Toronto and Quebec if a worldwide sweep for evidence of wrongdoing in host-city voting turns up anything involving those two cities. The matter, he said, would be discussed at an IOC executive board meeting next week.
_ Portuguese IOC member Fernando Belo said the system of selecting host countries for the Olympics encourages corruption. ``We ought to be prohibited from accepting gifts,″ Belo said.
_ The oldest living Olympic champion said he was ``appalled″ by the scandal, but has confidence the spirit of the games will be preserved.
Leon Stukelj, who turned 100 in November, said the blame falls on IOC members involved in the bribery allegations.