Toronto Fingered in IOC Scandal
TORONTO (AP) _ Amid all the reports of lavish treatment for IOC members, this favor seems anything but jet-set _ a government forestry job and a modest home in the remote Ontario steel city of Sault Ste. Marie.
Yet revelations that such a job was provided in 1989 to Finnish forester Bjarne Haeggman helped convince his ex-wife, Pirjo Haeggman, to resign from the IOC on Tuesday _ the first IOC member to quit as a result of the steadily widening bribery scandal.
The job with Ontario’s Natural Resources Ministry was arranged with the help of the Toronto committee that bid to host the 1996 Summer Games. The committee also paid the Haeggmans’ $650-a-month rent in Sault Ste. Marie.
Investigators also have alleged that Bjarne Haeggman did consulting work in Salt Lake City at the time that city was successfully bidding for the 2002 Winter Games.
Paul Henderson, who was head of the Toronto bid committee, insisted in an e-mail sent Monday to Toronto media that the rent money was supposed to be repaid by the Haeggmans and was not an attempt to win Pirjo Haeggman’s vote for Toronto.
But Henderson said he was unsure whether his committee was in fact reimbursed and instructed Ron Bertram, the committee’s chief operating officer, to try to find the records.
Trevor Isherwood, who at the time was an Ontario forest management official, said Henderson flew to Sault Ste. Marie to personally push for Bjarne Haeggman to be hired, and later pressured the ministry to keep the Finn on the job even though his work was lackluster.
``I don’t think he was very interested in working,″ Isherwood told the Toronto Sun.
Isherwood said Haeggman had a masters degree in forestry and was qualified for the job, which involved making an inventory of trees in Ontario.
The Finn was given a 20-month contract, was paid about $36,000, and quit four days before the IOC vote in September 1990 that awarded the 1996 Games to Atlanta. Toronto finished third in the voting behind Athens.
The Haeggmans lived for more than a year in a white wood-paneled bungalow in Sault Ste. Marie, a steel and paper-mill city of 80,000 across the St. Mary’s River from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Henderson _ who is in Australia for the world sailing championships _ said in his e-mail that his committee made no secret of the arrangement with the Haeggmans. He contended that even IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch knew about it.
``Everyone knew she was here and both Atlanta and Salt Lake (Olympic bid committees) visited her there (Sault Ste. Marie) and her address in the IOC Directory stated that,″ Henderson said. ``And she and I had cleared it through Samaranch and the Finn Olympic Committee.
``It was all open and above board.″
But Henderson confirmed the Toronto committee ended up paying the Haeggmans’ rent.
``The Sault landlord demanded a better covenant than a (promise from) a `Finnish immigrant’ and would accept payment only from a Canadian account, so TOOC (the Toronto committee) paid,″ Henderson said.
``And to my knowledge, Bjarne was billed by TOOC or was supposed to reimburse (TOOC) from his salary since living on the street with two young kids in the winter in Sault Ste. Marie was not an option.″
In a statement from Helsinki, Pirjo Haeggman said she thought the rent was paid ``according to the contract by my husband’s employer. It is a surprise for me that the committee paid the rent.″