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Sunday, January 24, 1999 Published at 13:42 GMT


Press review: Scant surprise at scandal

In Salt Lake City, the allegations of Olympic bribery are not exactly causing a stir in the local press.

Rather than whipping up righteous indignation, the local media is focusing on attempts by some officials to deflect attention from Utah and its problems in the wake of the scandal.

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An editorial in the Salt Lake City Weekly, entitled We're No Angels, suggested that comments made on TV by Utah's State Governor Mike Leavitt lacked credibility.

"Our leaders trying to explain away our Gold Medal Screw Up as atypical of Utah Values is like Bill Clinton trying to explain that getting oral sex is not really having sex," the editorial said.

Governor Leavitt apparently used his State of the State address this year to recall how his father urged him to "remember who you are and what you stand for", and how traditional "Utah Values" are "in conflict with what happened during the process that awarded Utah the 2002 Winter Olympics Games".

Most reports took a similar line, expressing scant surprise at the scandal.

"Lobbyist gift-giving and political fund raising have long been accepted in a state where bribery is none of your damned business," said Katharine Biele in the same Salt City newspaper.

"You'd have to be blind not to realise that the bid committees were showering money on the IOC. When Tom Welch and his group flew off in search of the Olympics, reporters came back with stories of plush hospitality suites flush with gifts, and of envelopes discretely slipped under doors. It was expected," Ms Biele adds.

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The Salt Lake Tribune has uncovered some intriguing allegations relating to the corruption scandal in Utah.

An article in Thursday's edition reported that the Salt Lake bid committee helped the daughter of an influential Olympic official get work with the Utah Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra's retired Musical Director Joseph Silverstein was quoted as saying that the young musician got the job - and subsequent rave reviews - "purely on her merits as a pianist.''

Both the Salt Lake papers report comments by the former governor of the state, Calvin Rampton remembering the attempts to bring the 1972 Winter Olympics to Utah.

"Oh, things were different then. No enormous television rights, for instance. The total budget for the Salt Lake Bid Committee was $35,000," he said.

The Salt Lake Organising Committee has now admitted to spending some $15m to win the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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The press in Sydney, the city hosting the games next year, suggested that corruption and bribery are second nature in the IOC, and Australia is far from blame.

"Only one other global organisation uses the word "family" as frequently and obsequiously as the International Olympic Committee, and that's the Mafia," wrote Roy Masters in a comment piece.

"The bribery scandal suggests both organisations employ similar business practices," he continues, adding that "to an egalitarian country like Australia" the IOC's method of operation is "alien".

On the same day, the newspaper reported that one of the Sydney officials involved in the scandal said that he had no regrets about making the offers and "would have had regrets only if Sydney had lost".

Other headlines showed a sense of unease.

"Why I did it: Games chief denies buying votes," said Australia's Sun-Herald.

"Sydney Games at risk," said Melbourne's Sunday Age, and there were similar sentiments at the Sunday Telegraph: "Story to shock a nation: We could lose the Games."

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