The Lords of the Rings
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.
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.
The media was electrified by last December's disclosures of payoffs in Salt Lake City. But even as the noisy reporters clamored for explanations, Samaranch had more pressing matters on his mind. Coming up was the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Samaranch was working on his press release.
"The desire to create a culture of democracy, justice, peace, solidarity and respect for fundamental and universal ethical principles," he trumpeted, "has been omnipresent in the activities undertaken by the IOC since its creation."
Samaranch loves to spout human rights these days. A bit more guff like that and he thinks they'll give him the Nobel Peace Prize. But he didn't always speak this language. Fifty years ago, as the world recovered from World War II, one country was out of step. Spain's dictator Franco had backed the Nazi cause, and his regime survived the war. One of his young acolytes was Samaranch.
Samaranch loyally played his part suppressing civil liberties and rose to become the Generalissimo's sports minister, delivering virile muscularity to enhance the regime's image. According to reports from Spain, he continued giving the fascist salute right up until the dictator's death in 1975. By this time Samaranch was a vice president of the IOC.
His colleagues didn't mind a bit. Why should they? Samaranch wasn't alone. For years the IOC has been a safe haven for old fascists in a hostile world, a place where memories of the 1936 Berlin Olympics the Hitler Games are fond ones.
The old goose-stepper, now a sprightly 78, has a dilemma this week. On the list of bribe takers is South Korea's other member, Kim Un Yong. Samaranch calls Kim "his most trusted lieutenant." According to reports, jobs were arranged for his children and paid for by the Salt Lake City organizing committee. Scandal observers agree that whether the IOC kicks Kim out or not will be the ultimate measuring stick of how serious the organization is about reforming itself.
But why Kim was allowed membership on the committee in the first place is a mystery. According to documents unearthed in Washington, Kim was a longtime senior officer with the South Korean intelligence service. They had a record of kidnapping dissidents who had fled South Korea and taking them home for torture and execution.
Kim has hired New York lawyers and a publicist to massage the media. The charges against him and his children are quite clear (though Kim denies knowledge that the arrangements were made on his children's behalf). But the old fascist survivor Samaranch seems to want to retain Kim, who is said to be in line for the IOC presidency. It only figures, Kim is also a survivor of a similar fascist dictatorship.
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