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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 16:24 GMT


Sport

Polishing the Olympic image



As the IOC investigations into the Salt Lake City 2002 and Syndey 2000 corruption scandals continue, the chairman of Manchester's two failed Olympic bids Sir Robert Scott gives his thoughts on the future of the Games.


[ image:  ]

The question I am asked most often these days about Manchester's failed bids to host the Olympics of 1996 and 2000 is: "Do you feel bitter now that the whole world knows that votes were being bought and sold?" Curiously the answer is an emphatic 'No'.

Like any Olympic competitor we were proud to be in the race, win or lose, and I remain convinced that the number of 'bad apples' was very small. Furthermore, like the canny north-countrymen and women we are, we always had a second agenda - we were determined to benefit from the bid process even if we lost.

And benefit we did. We got new facilities, substantial new inward investment, worldwide focus, we climbed several rungs on the international ladder, secured the 2002 Commonwealth Games and, best of all, we developed an amazing new spirit in the city - which is still felt more than five years later.

Perfect hosts

Sydney, I believe, and I have heard nothing yet to change my mind, was a worthy winner and will host a sensational Olympics in a sensational setting.


[ image: Sydney: A worthy winner]
Sydney: A worthy winner
To me the real mystery is the Salt Lake City behaviour. Never was there such a clear favourite in Olympic bidding. Salt Lake had only lost to Nagano, Japan, by four votes for the 1998 Winter Games and that was only because another American city, Atlanta, had previously won the 1996 summer games.

We all believed, and I am certain we were right, that Salt Lake just had to turn up four years later and they would win. And that is exactly how it looked in September 1995 when they won by a landslide.

Tarnished image

The vast majority of the IOC membership is absolutely honourable. Some, however, were weak. I am sure that this group promised their votes to several of the cities. What they never did to me or to members of our team was ask for money. This was, I believe, because we were British and would have blown the whistle and did not have a huge budget. But it brings me to the conclusion that it was more a question of the cities offering than the members demanding.

Whatever the truth, the situation is grave. The world's media have tasted blood and are pretty angry. I know many British and American journalists who feel that the IOC has been fobbing them off for years. And inevitably, much of the focus has been on President Samaranch.

But, key figure though he undoubtedly is, he is not the key issue. No, the critical question is how to clean up the tarnished image of the Olympic movement and how, in particular, to clean up the process of choosing an Olympic city.

Wheat from the chaff

Every major city in the world wants the games and they are prepared to set aside huge budgets to get them. There are some 120 IOC members who have the right to vote on the choice of that city.

They are independent and responsible to no one and candidate cities treat them like gods. What we now know is that they cannot be trusted to resist the blandishments and pressures showered upon them. Therefore a much smaller group of tried and trusted Olympians should be given the responsibility.


[ image: President Juan Antonio Samaranch: Focus of attention but not the IOC's key problem]
President Juan Antonio Samaranch: Focus of attention but not the IOC's key problem
The problem will be in the choice of this new select band. They may be able to resist hand-outs, but even that will not be fool-proof. They will inevitably be representative of a country, a sport, a profession.

The two-tier system of voting works well as long as the members' integrity is sound and stringent controls are put on the candidate cities. And if a city is caught paying bribes it should be disqualified. That won't be easy either.

But despite the temptation to start from scratch, the IOC must be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The system is quaint but it is not all bad. For now, the rotten apples must be got rid of. In future, more care must be taken in the choice of new members.

But the independence of the membership is a valuable if fragile flower. Finding a seemingly blameless electoral college to replace it could, if we are not careful, do more harm than good.
[ image:  ]





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