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Olympic Scandal Claims Mascot

January 12, 1999

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Even the mascot for the Salt Lake City Olympics is lying low.

Amid the worst corruption scandal in Olympic history, organizers Tuesday indefinitely postponed the unveiling of Salt Lake’s official mascot.

The unveiling was to have been Feb. 8, coinciding with the three-year countdown to the 2002 Winter Games. A date for the mascot’s debut will be announced next month.

``We want to introduce the mascot for 2002 in an atmosphere of community celebration. This is not the appropriate time,″ said Shelley Thomas, senior vice president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The bribery scandal also forced the SLOC to cancel its Thursday meeting because the committee’s ethics panel isn’t ready to report results of its investigation.

The investigation by the five-member panel, which has a Feb. 11 deadline to finish its work, is one of four inquiries examining accusations of lavish gifts, cash and scholarships given to IOC members and their relatives by the Salt Lake bid committee that landed the games in 1995.

The other investigations are by the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Justice Department.

``Our first priority right now is the prompt resolution of all inquiries, and taking whatever action is necessary to move forward from this difficult period,″ Thomas said. ``Our mascot should receive the positive attention it deserves.″

Organizers originally hoped to show its mascot during the closing ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Games at Nagano, Japan, then later in time for the Christmas season.

But focus groups in several cities thought early designs didn’t look Olympic enough, and the IOC only recently approved the design.

There were signs elsewhere the scandal was taking a toll.

David Johnson, the SLOC executive vice president forced to resign Friday because of his prominent role in the bid process, attacked a TV crew on his doorstep Monday.

``Get off my property!″ Johnson yelled at Remi Barron, a reporter for KSTU, and cameraman Charlie Ehlert.

``We’re leaving,″ Ehlert said.

Johnson then grabbed a microphone from Barron, kicked Ehlert and took his camera, according to the station, which showed part of the struggle it caught on tape.

``Dave right from the start was very angry and belligerent,″ news director Geoff Roth said Tuesday. ``Remi would have left. Instead, Dave physically attacked our crew.″

Johnson, who apologized to the crew as it was leaving, has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. His wife, Kimberly Johnson, on leave from her news position at a rival station, returned the camera moments later and no charges were filed.

Also on Tuesday:

_An IOC member from Finland, Pirjo Haeggman, denied any wrongdoing in connection with reports her ex-husband had worked for Salt Lake’s bid committee. She said she had no intention of resigning.

The New York Times reported Haeggman’s former husband worked briefly for the bid committee on an environmental study.

Haeggman said her ex-husband, Bjarne, ``desperately had looked for a job for two years, home or abroad,″ but that at the time of the reported work in 1993 they were splitting up. The couple divorced in 1995.

``I don’t know if he got any fees or a salary, and from where,″ said Haeggman, who now works for the Helsinki committee bidding for the 2006 Winter Games.

The IOC sent letters this week to members implicated in the investigation, demanding an explanation. The IOC executive board is to meet Jan. 24 to take action against any members found guilty of impropriety. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch has said guilty members would be expelled or asked to resign.

At least eight IOC members are believed to have been implicated.

_ The only IOC member to quit in an ethics scandal said Samaranch and other leaders should resign. Former U.S. Olympic Committee president Robert Helmick said Samaranch should follow the example of SLOC’s top officials, who stepped down last week.

``You’d expect the president of the IOC to adhere to a higher standard,″ Helmick said. ``He should resign. The IOC’s officers should resign.″

_Two South American IOC members identified by Salt Lake investigators in the scandal also said they had done nothing wrong.

Ecuador’s Agustin Arroyo said from Guayaquil that his stepdaughter, Nancy, had worked briefly for the Utah state government restoring paintings but denied she had also worked for and received scholarship aid from the Salt Lake committee.

``No family member of mine has worked for the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee, nor has any family member received a scholarship or grant of any kind,″ Arroyo said.

Chilean Olympic Committee president Sergio Santander denied receiving any money from Salt Lake and said he had asked SLOC’s investigators for more information.

Santander said he was ``deeply upset″ about reports former SLOC leader Thomas Welch had given $10,000 to his campaign for mayor of Santiago.

_The Associated Press reported that African Olympic official Jean-Claude Ganga will fight any attempts to oust him from the IOC.

``He’s not going to lay down and die,″ a knowledgeable Olympic source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``He will only go if there is absolutely no other way.″

Ganga, of the Republic of Congo, is among the IOC members under investigation.

_In New York, two Olympic greats said the bribery scandal is just an example of the way Olympics business is done.

Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, who each won a record nine Olympic gold medals, said corruption was rampant in the bidding process for cities.

``I don’t think anyone believes that this is the first time this has happened,″ Lewis said. ``I don’t think anyone believes that this has not gone on before. I don’t know of any organization that has more power or makes more money that is less regulated in the entire world than the IOC.″

Spitz said work as a consultant for Stockholm’s unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Summer Games showed him the darker side of the Olympics.

``We communicated with the 100 or so (IOC) delegates and there was this definite undertow in all the conversations, and that was, `What benefit is it going to be to my country?′ which is more or less saying, `What benefit is it going to be to me if in effect I vote for this city?‴ Spitz said.

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