By Robert Weiner and Chrisanthy Stotis
Did Chicago lose 2016 Olympics By Playing Straight?
The FIFA (world soccer) criminal corruption indictments by US and Swiss law enforcement were huge developments with worldwide repercussions. However, FIFA could not be alone for bribes from countries for the privilege to host a world championship. Allegations have swirled around the Olympics for years. With FIFA outed, are the Olympics next? Could Chicago and the U.S. have lost the Olympics for the same reason the U.S. lost hosting the World Cup?
Internal Olympic investigations have confirmed that members of the IOC, International Olympic Committee, have accepted bribes, "gifts", and kickbacks in exchange for a city's selection. In 1998, Swiss IOC member and Games Oversight Committee Chairman, Marc Holder, disclosed that the Salt Lake bid committee lavished gifts onto IOC members who were deciding where the 2002 games were to be held.
The gifts included college scholarships, jobs for members' children, and money. Other bribes included paying for family vacations, plastic surgery, Super Bowl tickets, and cash between three and seven million dollars.
Mitt Romney was brought in to provide new leadership of the Salt Lake committee. But even then, he gave several bid gift-givers contracts including travel hospitality owner Sead Dizdarevic, who admitted in court giving $130,000 to bid committee members.
Romney also allowed drug supplement companies' advertising money He awarded a $20 million sponsorship to Utah-based Nu Skin, and subsidiary Pharmanex distributed supplements to all Salt Lake Olympians. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, in charge of Olympic drug testing, was advising athletes not to take such supplements, citing concerns they may be tainted. WADA Chair Dick Pound said, "I'd be reluctant to have a sponsorship agreement while the industry is fighting regulation and offering disinformation." Later, Nu Skin Founder Steven Lund put $2 million into Romney Super PAC Restore our Future in 2011, according to campaign disclosure forms.
Accusations of Olympic bribes didn't die with Salt Lake. There were multiple allegations made in 2004 by the Guardian and the Daily Mail that IOC members sold their votes for the 2012 London Olympics.
The last U.S. city to come close to hosting an Olympics was Chicago, one of four finalists for the 2016 Summer Games. As reported by NPR, "The scandalous behavior of IOC members and Salt Lake City Olympic bidders in the 1990s triggered reform that effectively banned gifts and favors. The reform effort also made it difficult to apply legitimate politicking." NPR continued, "This not only hogtied the savvy political operatives in Chicago, it also minimized the role of President Obama, the Olympic bidder-in-chief."
In other words, after the Salt Lake scandal, the US was scared straight against bribing for the Games. But that may not have stopped other countries from using old Olympic traditions to win.
Right now, the final two contestants for the 2022 Winter Olympics, China and Kazakhstan, are briefing IOC members. Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all dropped their bids. According to Norwegian paper VG, no one wanted to accede to IOC demands including separate IOC members' road lanes, "fully stocked bars" for the IOC, ceremonies for IOC leaders, and private IOC airport entrances.
On July 31 this year in Malaysia, the 2022 host city will be voted. This means that if there are any "gifts" being exchanged between applicant cities and the IOC, they are being bartered now.
The current investigation spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department and the government of Switzerland has unmasked the skeletons in FIFA's closet. A similar investigation could hit the Olympics, now that no one is too big for the truth.
Since Chicago lost the bid, let's make sure they lost it fair and square.
Robert Weiner was White House Drug Policy Office spokesman and was WADA's Salt Lake City Games media spokesman. Chrisanthy Stotis is sports policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.