SLOC Warns IOC Of Potentially Embarrassing Documents
SLOC Gets Cool Reception
Bruce Lindsay Reporting
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ The Salt Lake City scandal just won't go away. For the International Olympic Committee, the question is: Will it ever end?
The scandal again dominated proceedings at the IOC general assembly Wednesday, with Salt Lake organizers warning delegates to brace for the release of "thousands and thousands of pages" of potentially embarrassing documents.
Angry IOC members demanded that Salt Lake officials stop the public release of any files that would slur their reputation.
"You cannot just issue any piece of paper," Uruguayan delegate Julio Maglione said. "That's not democracy, that's not freedom. Many roads based on good intentions lead to hell."
But Mitt Romney, president of the SLOC, says state law and SLOC rules require him to release all documents connected with the bribery scandal surrounding the city's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. The affair led to the expulsion or resignation of 10 IOC members last year.
Romney said he was aware of 400 boxes of files in the hands of government investigators.
"I'm not sure everything in those boxes will be accurate or fair," he said. "I apologize for any pain or hurt that these documents will cause. I want you to recognize I didn't write them or (other current SLOC officials) write them. I share your outrage they were written in the first place."
Romney had hoped to bring a symbolic close to the scandal by stressing how the SLOC had rebuilt public and corporate confidence in the games. He said the "sun rising over the Sydney Games" marked the "sun setting" on the past of scandal.
Instead, his report triggered an extraordinary debate reflecting the continuing deep-seated bitterness of IOC members toward Salt Lake City.
Greek member Lambis Nikolaou blasted Americans as "arrogant" and called for the IOC assembly in 2002 to be moved out of Salt Lake to Lausanne, Switzerland. IOC director general Francois Carrard said it was "an individual proposal by one member" but did not rule it out.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said he was concerned the continuing release of documents and the pending trial of two former SLOC leaders would disturb the games.
"We are worried that you said there are thousands of boxes and boxes that can be opened in the near future," Samaranch said. "That means that during the Olympic Games in 2002 this problem will not be finished."
"I can imagine that during the Olympic Games in Salt Lake another `geld' document could be published," he said. "That will make a bad image not only for the IOC, but also for the games in Salt Lake City."
The "geld" document is a dossier compiled by Salt Lake bid leaders that listed personal habits, loyalties and family needs of IOC members. The word "geld," which means money in German, was written next to the names of several IOC members.
Some IOC members have threatened to sue Salt Lake organizers for libel over the document. Italian delegate Franco Carraro said Wednesday the IOC should set up a legal service that would both defend members and launch proceedings against those responsible for any false allegations.
Samaranch suggested the IOC find a way to respond to accusations in further documents to be released.
Romney told reporters the SLOC would be "responsive" to Samaranch's request to screen the documents for false information in advance of their release.
"There are legitimate concerns that factual errors and inaccuracies can be corrected prior to being headlined around the world," he said.
Romney said he hoped the documents would be issued as quickly as possible so IOC members would not have to "endure a water torture" of files being released over months or years.
Bid committee operations were led by former SLOC president Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, who were charged in July with 15 felony counts of conspiracy, racketeering and fraud for providing more than $1 million in cash and gifts to IOC members.
Romney said government investigators have turned over "thousands and thousands of pages" of files to Welch and Johnson.
"The defendants will be ... making accusations in other directions, saying they were not to blame, others were to blame," Romney said. "I can only imagine their fingers will be pointed in many directions, and many people will feel wronged."
"Under our laws, all of the records and documents will be made public," he said. "The `geld' document is only one of the literally thousands and thousands of pages of written material of heaven knows what. I can't imagine what people have written. All of this will become public."
The document was retrieved under a subpoena in the U.S. Justice Department's grand jury investigation of the scandal. The memo was found on the hard drive of the computer of Johnson, the No. 2 official in the bid and former deputy of the organizing committee.
(Copyright 2000 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
APTV 09-13-00 0419MDT