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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 19:11 GMT


Olympics corruption probe ordered

On the skids: The games' image is under threat

The United States Olympic Committee has appointed a Special Commission to investigate alleged improprieties related to the selection of Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

[ image: George Mitchell: From Belfast to Utah]
George Mitchell: From Belfast to Utah
George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader who chaired the Northern Ireland peace talks, has been named chairman of the five-person commission.

Mr Mitchell said: "I believe the Olympic movement holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans and people around the world.

"We intend to investigate what happened in the past and make recommendations to assure that the selection of US candidate cities for future Olympics is fair and above reproach."

Any evidence of criminal wrongdoing would be turned over to government prosecutors, he added. The US Justice Department is already conducting a preliminary review of the allegations to see if further investigation is warranted.

The International Olympic Committee is also investigating the allegations after some Salt Lake officials admitted that tuition funding and athlete-training programmes were arranged for some relatives of IOC members during the selection process.

[ image: Marc Hodler: Corruption allegations]
Marc Hodler: Corruption allegations
IOC official Marc Hodler said last week that the organisation had a bank statement from Salt Lake City showing payments worth $632,000 listed under "scholarships", and that some of the recipients were IOC members.

Earlier, Mr Hodler had made allegations of attempted corruption in the Olympic movement.

He claimed cities bidding to stage the games were offered block votes by agents in exchange for millions of dollars.

'Best Winter Olympics ever'

The President of the United States Olympic Committee, Bill Hybl said his organisation was responsible for the overall conduct of the Olympic Games when they are awarded held in the US.

Bill Hybl: It's vital the US bid committee act in an ethical fashion (BBC World Service)
"We want to make sure that every aspect of this obligation is upheld in a straightforward and ethical manner," he said.

"The special commission will work to this end, and without internal or external pressure."

Mr Hybl also expressed his confidence in the Salt Lake Olympic Organising Committee.

"We expect to see the best Olympic Winter Games in history in Salt Lake," he said.

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