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Nagano Olympic Records Are Missing

January 14, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ The Olympic bribery investigation in Salt Lake City has Japan fretting. However, don’t expect much of an inquiry into Nagano’s 1998 bid _ the records have vanished.

Last month, IOC executive Marc Hodler set off a bribery scandal with accusations of vote-buying by Salt Lake bidders for the 2002 Winter Games.

Many Japanese were alarmed _ but not too surprised _ to hear that Nagano was listed, along with Sydney, Australia; Atlanta; and Salt Lake City as an Olympic city with dubious bids.

Lavish gifts and expensive wining and dining have long been an established way of doing business in Japan. And accusations of bribery during Nagano’s 1989-1991 bidding effort aren’t new.

Entertainment by geisha, gifts of expensive paintings, not to mention the more general entertaining that accompanies Japanese hospitality, are said to have been part of the bid.

But none of that has ever been proved, and it probably never can be. The accounting book that kept records of the Nagano bidding expenses has mysteriously disappeared.

When a group of Nagano residents filed a lawsuit in 1992 demanding to know how their taxes were spent in winning the games, Nagano bidders said the book couldn’t be found. The question of who lost or destroyed the records was never answered.

Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada, a member of the bidding committee, recently denied any wrongdoing, calling his city’s bid a ``clean″ effort. Tsukada told The Associated Press he sees ``no need″ to investigate Nagano’s bid because the bidders gave IOC officials only crafts and other Nagano-made trinkets.

Not everyone is convinced.

Tadashi Arai, an official at the Education Ministry, which oversees the Olympics, said the government is ``gathering information″ on possible bribery.

Although increasingly frowned upon, golfing trips, cash-filled envelopes and gourmet restaurants where skimpily clad waitresses wear no underwear are facts of life in top Japanese political and business circles.

The latest suspicion concerns whether Nagano hired a Swiss-based agent to buy votes. Hodler has said that agents _ promising to secure votes for a fee _ are the key players in the bribery scandal.

Tsukada initially denied Nagano ever hired an agent. But a report written by the bidding committee when their work was taken over by the Nagano Olympic organizers clearly states that Nagano hired an agent. The report does not give a name or the amount of payment.

When questioned by the AP, Tsukada said the agent was hired merely to gather information about the IOC and other rival cities. He would not comment further.

The bid committee’s report says nearly $18 million was spent on Nagano’s bid.

More than half of that went into ``public relations efforts,″ including entertainment, payment to the agent, air and hotel fees for visiting IOC officials and Nagano officials heading to IOC meetings abroad, the report says.

Where exactly the money went remains a mystery.

Masao Ezawa, one of the Nagano residents who filed the suit against the Olympics, is so frustrated with Japanese authorities’ refusal to take him seriously that he is asking the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Olympic Committee to carry out a bribery investigation of Nagano’s bid.

``Nagano bought the games with Japan money,″ Ezawa said in a letter sent to the U.S. organizations on Wednesday.

Ezawa said by telephone he respected Americans for trying to find out about the Salt Lake bid.

``In Japan, everyone is all dead set on hiding what happened,″ he said.

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