IOC To Investigate Jewelry Claims
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ An early morning fax from a jilted spouse has the International Olympic Committee looking again at the conduct of one of its members.
In a move that ended a week of uncertainty and took the case out of the hands of one of its top-ranking officers, the IOC said Friday its executive board would investigate Australian member Phil Coles for allegedly accepting expensive jewelry from a bid city.
``As a result of the fact that a communication has been received from a third party, the executive board decided to investigate the matter further,″ an IOC statement said.
Georgina Coles, who split with Phil Coles in a bitter divorce almost six years ago, told IOC investigators that the couple received a gold-and-diamond necklace and cufflinks, which she turned into earrings, while visiting Athens, which had an unsuccessful Olympic bid in 1990.
The items have been appraised at $6,300 _ far beyond the IOC’s $150 limit on gifts from bid cities.
Already slapped with a severe censure for accepting lavish travel in the Salt Lake City bid scandal, Phil Coles could be expelled if the board finds he violated the rules again.
In giving the matter to the executive board, the IOC abolished a five-member investigation panel that produced six expulsions, four resignations and 10 warnings in the IOC’s worst scandal, the million-dollar vote-buying scheme of Salt Lake City’s successful 2002 bid.
That took the case out of the control of Dick Pound, an IOC vice president who headed the ad hoc panel and is a longtime friend of Coles.
The jewelry has been the focus of news reports in Australia for the past week, about the time Coles arrived in Lausanne for an emergency IOC assembly that expelled six members and adopted measures described as the first steps of reform in the wake of the Olympics’ worst corruption case.
Pound said Thursday he would act if Georgina Coles sent him information. When he arrived at the committee’s headquarters Friday for an executive board meeting, there was a fax from Australia.
``I can confirm that jewelry (a set of diamond cufflinks and a gold necklace) was given to Mr. Coles and myself in Athens by a man involved in the Athens bid for the 1996 Olympic Games,″ Georgina Coles wrote. ``This occurred in 1990.
``I had the cufflinks made into earrings. This is my final statement on the matter.″
Athens lost the 1996 race to Atlanta in September 1990. Finishing fourth in that contest was Melbourne, Australia.
Phil Coles appeared before the executive board and said he ``appreciated the opportunity to explain the situation.″
He said he would remain on leave from the board of the organizing committee for next year’s Summer Games in Sydney ``until the matter is resolved.″
Coles said his ex-wife’s actions were ``a sad development.″
``She was obviously shown where to send it,″ he said, adding that he had no plans to resign from the IOC despite mounting pressure.
In Sydney, Olympics boss Michael Knight said the IOC had to investigate the jewelry case and called on Coles to ``stop the pain″ by quitting the board of SOCOG, the organizing committee for the 2000 Games.
Coles’ case came up during a meeting of the executive board with Sydney organizers.
``It’s their business, not mine,″ SOCOG chief executive Sandy Hollway said. ``They showed us a copy of the letter and said they want to deliberate on it.″
He said SOCOG was still $135 million short of its sponsorship revenue target, with $53 million still to be identified. But he was confident much of the money will be raised.
He admitted the scandals have made the revenue drive more difficult.
``We acknowledge the climate has not been ideal, but so far it has not hurt us on the sponsorship side,″ he said. ``All the sponsors want the scandal cleaned up, and they have all stayed solid.″
In another matter, the executive board approved a change in the start time of the women’s marathon, from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., on the request of Japanese TV networks.