Olympic Whistle-Blower Reemerges
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The hiring of a respected sports marketing company to recruit more 2002 Winter Games sponsors was a smart move, according to the chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission.
Swiss lawyer Marc Hodler, whose allegations of bribery against his colleagues triggered the biggest Olympic scandal in history, said he has little doubt Salt Lake City can recover.
He pointed to the hiring of International Management Group, which handled sponsorship sales for the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.
``They never let me down,″ Hodler said of Cleveland, Ohio-based IMG, which he has dealt with for decades as the senior IOC member and the former head of the international skiing federation.
IMG has agreed to recruit sponsors for the SLOC and U.S. Olympic Committee, and will be paid only on commission for any sponsors it lands.
Hodler is in Salt Lake City with 17 other members of the coordination commission to scrutinize budgets, venues and plans for the games that begin on Feb. 8, 2002.
At the top of the commission’s priorities, he said, is to help the scandal-tarnished organization find ways to raise more money and cut costs.
He endorsed SLOC President Mitt Romney’s approach of winnowing down the main budget to the essentials and planning to spend for frills only if the revenue comes through. The SLOC is still operating from a $1.45 billion budget, although a hiring freeze and other frugalities are already allowing the committee to delay borrowing from a line of credit.
Romney has said he will ask the IOC this week to renegotiate its contract to cut SLOC’s hosting costs; to defer royalty payments on merchandise, sponsorships and tickets; and to let SLOC go after technology sponsors.
Salt Lake City has had some good news recently; a sponsor and two suppliers last week signed letters of intent that could be worth $30 million. But the committee is still saying it is $350 million short of revenue to meet the full budget.
``I am quite certain there will be no problem,″ Hodler said. ``We have the same interest in our present position.″
Led by Jean-Claude Killy, the Olympic ski champion and now IOC member from France, the coordination commission’s financial task force was briefed Monday by SLOC officials on their problems raising money from jittery sponsors.
Killy met with three experts who are reviewing SLOC’s books: IOC financial director Thierry Sprunger; Bjorn Brenna, head of finance for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer; and Pat Glisson, Atlanta’s financial chief for the 1996 Summer Games.
Hodler said he was pleased with progress the IOC has made in dealing with the scandal and repeated that Salt Lake City was a victim of unscrupulous committee members and agents promising blocks of votes.
Hodler did not admit to any regret for blowing the whistle on corrupt IOC members last December _ a move that led to the resignations of SLOC’s vice president and president, the purge of 10 IOC members, wrenching reform at IOC and six separate investigations. The Justice Department and Utah attorney general’s office are still investigating.
He also confirmed previous reports that Dave Johnson, then the No. 2 official of SLOC and a bid leader, telephoned him last Nov. 19 or 20 to tell him ``some important documents″ regarding a scholarship program were stolen from the committee and turned over to the news media.
``He said, `What should we do?‴
Days later, KTVX-TV broke the news that Johnson sent a letter to the daughter of the late IOC member Rene Essomba of Cameroon, ending a $10,000-a-year scholarship. That was the first documented proof of abuse of power within the IOC and the first element in the scandal.
``We had heard rumors for a long time, but we never really had facts,″ said Hodler, who helped write the IOC’s old ethics code.
It was unclear whether Johnson, a longtime friend, told Hodler IOC members were involved. Hodler said he was told there were no direct cash payments. He said he advised Johnson to ``come completely clean″ and was ``disappointed″ when it was later revealed Johnson lied to him.
Phone messages left for Max Wheeler, Johnson’s lawyer, were not immediately returned.
Hodler said he hoped to meet with Johnson while in Salt Lake City.