Records Shed Light on Atlanta Games
Sep. 18, 1999
ATLANTA (AP) _ Newly released records of Atlanta Olympics officials portray some International Olympic Committee members as ``dishonest'' and ``sleaze bags'' and show that Atlanta officials bidding for the 1996 Games knew about such reputations early on.
That is in contrast to the picture the organizers painted of themselves earlier this week, as they argued they were neophytes in a potentially corrupt system while admitting several violations and possible crimes in courting IOC votes.
The documents were included in eight boxes released Friday by Atlanta organizers who fought for months to keep them secret.
The eight boxes also contain dossiers on each IOC member, including several mentions of who could be bought and who would welcome gifts or extra travel.
One memo said an IOC member is ``greedy ... and can be bought.''
There is one direct reference to an IOC member's sexual preference, and several other indirect references.
The dossiers were compiled by a paid consultant who previously worked on Anchorage, Alaska's unsuccessful bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Other references to the IOC's corrupt reputation include a memo dated Aug. 8, 1988, written by committee member Horace Sibley.
In it, Sibley described a conversation with RJR Nabisco executive John Martin, who previously negotiated Olympic network television rights for ABC and described IOC members as ``sleaze bags.''
Martin said they could not be trusted and were not the kind of people RJR Nabisco wanted to associate with, Sibley wrote.
Sibley also wrote that the bid committee was ``fully aware of this ... and we were on our full guard in our effort.''
And England IOC member Mary Glen-Haig thought ``cities spend too much money and bring out the worst in some of her dishonest colleagues,'' according to a memo from former Atlanta Olympics chief Billy Payne dated May 1, 1990.
The boxes were released after a prolonged legal struggle between Payne and several Atlanta news organizations, which sued to have the records opened.
Before relenting, Payne argued that the files contained information given to organizers in confidence and unsubstantiated gossip never acted upon.
Atlanta officials delivered a report to Congress earlier this week detailing possible violations during their bid _ including three possible crimes and two college scholarship offers.
The report amended a previous accounting given to a congressional investigation opened in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal.
In making the report public Thursday, former Attorney General Griffin Bell denied any systematic vote-buying system like that of Salt Lake City, where organizers paid IOC members with cash and college scholarships during their successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games.
But a high-ranking IOC member Friday said Atlanta bidders plied voters with lavish gifts and travel.
``If you read the memos, it is quite clear to see what (Atlanta's) intention was,'' IOC executive committee member Jacques Rogge said in a telephone interview from his home in Belgium. ``They had this kind of seducing attitude, even with people whose reputation, honesty and character was absolutely beyond any doubt. It was a pattern of trying to seduce people _ and not vice versa.''
Italian IOC member Mario Pescante, secretary general of the European association, accused the Americans of ducking responsibility.
``Why don't we hear about the bid leaders who prepared this strategy to obtain votes?'' Pescante asked. ``Why don't the Americans take the responsibility for the people who organized this strategy of bribery and corruption? Who started this? They did.''
``We can't accept this position from the United States,'' Pescante added in a telephone interview from Rome. ``They are always against our movement. They don't have the humility to criticize their own behavior.''