Even as the International Olympic Committee moved to combat the worst scandal in its history by banning committee members from visiting cities bidding to be Olympic hosts, officials working to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the Baltimore-Washington area are fielding tougher questions than usual from the community.
"The questions I'm getting are what's the impact on us," said Dan Knise, president and chief executive of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition. "But we're not even close to that phase of dealing with the IOC," he said. "We've all along been planning on running an ethical and professional campaign."
The move to restrict travel by committee members was announced yesterday by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who also called an executive board meeting for next month to act on the unfolding Salt Lake City bribery scandal and consider changes in the system for selecting Olympic host cities.
The IOC has been shaken in recent weeks by accusations of wrongdoing, with an IOC member, Switzerland's Marc Hodler, estimating that as many as 5 percent to 7 percent of the organization's 115 members are open to bribery.
Accusations include possible problems with the bid for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. Those Games' organizers have admitted to having a $400,000 scholarship fund for IOC members' families, but have said it was an act of humanitarianism -- not bribery. There are reports of other favors for IOC members, including free medical care and gifts exceeding the $150 limit set by the IOC, according to news reports.
Specifically, visits by IOC members to bidding cities have long been considered fraught with the possibility of corruption.
As the controversy unfolds at the IOC level, the Washington-Baltimore effort is putting the finishing touches on an ethics policy -- in the works long before any of the IOC bribery reports surfaced.
The policy, expected to be three or four pages long, will address such issues as: use of stationery, confidentiality, conflicts of interest and personal conduct, Knise said.
"We understand our commitment to represent this region in an honorable and professional manner," Knise said. "We plan to live up to that trust. We will always do the right thing."
Washington-Baltimore is competing against San Francisco; Dallas; Cincinnati; Houston; New York; Tampa-Orlando, Fla.; and Los Angeles to be chosen as the U.S. candidate for 2012. Seattle dropped out of the race last week because of a lack of civic support.
The United States Olympic Committee is to choose a U.S. candidate city in 2002. An international competition is to follow, with the IOC selecting the host city in 2005.
Knise said he was heartened by the IOC's quick response to corruption allegations, in the form of investigation and suggested rule changes.
"My sense is that as soon as the IOC had some evidence that there was a problem, they took action," Knise said. "That's the positive thing."
An investigation into the possible actions by Salt Lake City in its efforts to secure the bid for the 2002 Games is to be completed by Jan. 23, according to Samaranch.
The IOC president has suggested that the Olympics follow the example of other major sports bodies, and leave major decisions to their executive committees rather than the full membership. Samaranch told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin recently that he had recommended several times that the procedure be changed.
Winning an Olympic bid entails serious lobbying.
According to newspaper reports, Paris spent $22 million wooing IOC members and watched the 1992 Summer Olympics go to Barcelona, Spain, which spent $17 million. The 13 cities that bid for the 1992 Winter and Summer Olympics spent $100 million in all.
The IOC has attempted to tighten the rules by restricting committee member visits to three days and putting a $150 limit on the value of gifts offered to members.
But the recent allegations in Olympic practices raise concerns that, despite limits imposed by the IOC, gifts and favors may have gone too far.
"Anything that tarnishes the Olympic image is a shame," Knise said. "It stands for fairness and competition. Something like this can't help but tarnish that, even if it's short-term."
Pub Date: 12/22/98