The Lords of the Rings

In Salt Lake Olympic Scandal, The Accused Are Less the Problem Than Some of Their Judges

Two gunrunners, one serial sex-abuser, one rain-forest logger, Idi Amin's former defense minister, a Korean spook, human jetsam of discredited regimes, a billionaire convicted of bribing presidents, gangsters' cronies, bribe takers, a retired fascist official turned Opus Dei operative, some princes and princesses, along with a senior sports official from NBC-TV— all muffled against the gusts off Lake Geneva— will meet this week to dispense justice. In secret.

They're among the hundred or so aging members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) assembling at Lausanne's Palais de Beaulieu to judge a handful of their colleagues, said to have betrayed the organization's high ethical standards by accepting various payoffs in exchange for granting the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

The worst charges involve modest bribe-taking, influence peddling, and enjoying a couple of Super Bowl tickets. Bad as that may be, it's worth taking a closer look at some of the other IOC members who will be passing judgment on their fallen friends— those who claim to set and maintain Olympian standards of behavior in public life. It could be that while the world is distracted by the low crimes of a few Olympic trustees, it is these other members who truly sully the Games with their mere presence on the IOC.

Hear no evil: IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
AP/Wide World
Hear no evil: IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Take Indonesia's Bob Hasan. His seat on the IOC threatens the body's claim to promote a "green" Olympics. Hasan's logging companies, environmentalists say, were among those that lit the fires two years ago that sent a choking smog over much of Southeast Asia. Further, Hasan has long been chasing the title of world's biggest rain-forest logger. He controls a monopoly of the Indonesian timber trade— a benefit bestowed by the country's former strongman, Suharto. Dismantling Hasan's cartel was one of the conditions issued by the International Monetary Fund before it would offer a package to save the country's economy.

Hasan and the dictator played golf regularly for 40 years, and the logger, worth an estimated $3 billion, bankrolled the general's political aspirations. He also fronted the trusts where Suharto's children warehoused their huge stock holdings.

Loyal to the end, Hasan was appointed trade minister in Suharto's final, bunker government before the students swept him away. When not burning the land of Indonesia's indigenous peoples, Hasan occupies a seat on the executive council of international track and field.

Another IOC member well suited to judge the Salt Lake City bribery case is South Korea's Lee Kun Hee. Lee has an intimate knowledge of bribery himself. When he was appointed to the IOC in 1996, in the week before the At-lanta Games, Lee was described as the chairman of the Samsung conglomerate. But the IOC PR machine neglected to mention that five weeks later he was due in a Seoul court to take his share of the blame for a $600 million payoff scam. He was given a two-year sus-pended sentence.

The recipient of Lee's bribes, former South Korea president Roh Tae Woo, is another Olympic standardbearer with a criminal past. Though he was not an IOC member, Roh received an Olympic Order award from IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch in 1988. Roh was being rewarded for using his army to keep protesters off the streets during the Seoul Olympics. Years later, he was given a 22-and-a-half-year sentence for a massacre of prodemocracy demonstrators in 1980. (He was later pardoned.)

Peru's Ivan Dibos is another IOC member who should readily understand the dilemmas of his accused colleagues. He, like many others, has used his Olympic leverage to seek out business opportunities. When Berlin bid for the 2000 Games, Dibos tried to force Volkswagen to give him the exclusive right to sell their cars in his country. The automakers agreed to a meeting at their Wolfsburg headquarters, but ultimately declined Dibos's generous offer.

Conflict of interests, a charge faced by some of the implicated IOC members, also happens to be on the résumé of many of their judges. Alex Gilady, for instance, is supposedly Israel's IOC representative. But he's also a senior sports official with NBC, which has paid $3.5 billion for television rights to the Games through 2008.

Other obvious conflicts: American IOC member James Easton makes a stack of money manufacturing archery equipment. The sport's biggest event happens to be the Olympics. France's rep, Jean-Claude Killy, works for longtime Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola. (Kenya's Charles Mukora, also a Coke official, recently resigned under the weight of corruption allegations.) Richard Carrion from Puerto Rico also sits on the board of an Olympic sponsor— he's a director of Visa International in Latin America.

Some other IOC members who will will vote on their bribe-taking colleagues have questionable associations of their own. There's Shamil Tarpischev, appointed in 1994 because he was Boris Yeltsin's tennis coach. Later, he was linked to Kremlin corruption scandals. Ivan Slavkov of Bulgaria was once the son-in-law of the Todor, his nation's dictator.

Then there is Major General Francis Nyangweso, an IOC member caught up in the current scandal. Nyangweso may yet be forced from the Olympic organization, but he remains unindicted for his real crimes: his role in the murderous regime of Idi Amin. To the IOC Nyangweso is a misunderstood fellow who may have been offered some money and a wardrobe. But to the people of Uganda he's the tyrant who headed Amin's army in the '70s. That army murdered 300,000 citizens and organized extreme terror campaigns throughout the dictator's eight-year reign. Nyangweso loyally served the strongman during those years— as army commander and in other government positions. He must feel at home under his new leader, the former fascist bureaucrat, IOC president Samaranch.

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