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Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 17:25 GMT

World: Europe

Olympic 'vote buying' scandal

Salt Lake City in 2002: One of the cities allegedly involved

A senior official in the International Olympics Committee says bribes of up to a million dollars have been demanded from cities bidding to host the games.

Marc Hodler, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board, said there had been abuses in voting for the 1996 Atlanta Games, the choice of Sydney for the 2000 Olypmics as well as Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Claire Doole: Most serious allegations made by an Olympic official
Mr Hodler, who has been an IOC member since 1963, said a group of four people, including one IOC member, had been involved in promising votes for payment, although he would not identify them.

"The four try to make a living out of this," he said.

""I missed a chance to be a rich man."

He alleged that those involved had approached various cities bidding to host the games, offering them blocs of votes if they paid between $500,000 and $1m.

He added that the city winning the bid would then be charged "something like three million to five million dollars."

Correspondents say the allegations are the most serious ever made by a senior IOC official.

[ image: IOC chief dissociated himself from charges]
IOC chief dissociated himself from charges
The IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, immediately disassociated himself from the allegations.

"The only official spokesman for the IOC executive board is (the director-general) Francois Carrard," he said.

Mr Samaranch added: "All the other comments are personal comments. They are not official comments."

The allegations came a day after the IOC announced it was to investigate the circumstances surrounding Salt Lake City's bid for the Winter Olympics.

The chief organiser of Salt Lake City's bid, Frank Joklik, said accusations of bribery were not justified.

The investigation is to focus on training and support programmes provided by Salt Lake City for people who were related to IOC members.

"I do not regard what was done as bribes even though I recognise that there have been perceptions contrary to that. I regret those perceptions. I don't think they are justified."

The former minister in charge of Sydney's successful Year 2000 bid has also revealed he was asked to offer bribes in exchange for votes but refused.

The venues for Olympics, which are hotly contested, are decided by a vote of the IOC. There have been allegations in the past of cities buying votes, but they have rarely been proved.

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