Olympic Committee Polishes Image as Winter Games Near

By Mark Sappenfield writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

Olympic Committee Polishes Image as Winter Games Near


Mark Sappenfield writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Perhaps nothing embodies the new spirit of the International Olympic Committee more than this one-block stretch of Main Street here.

On the left is the Grand America hotel, a white-pillared monolith of unseemly opulence - lit brighter than the State Capitol at night, and lavishly appointed cherry wood furniture and bathrooms of Italian marble. On the right is the Little America, its neighbor's blocky predecessor that - from this angle - looks more Residence Inn than Ritz-Carlton.

When International Olympic Committee (IOC) members arrived here for the opening ceremony of the IOC's 113th session on Sunday night, the Grand America might have seemed the logical choice of accommodation. But this Olympics, IOC officials are colonizing the Little rather than the Grand. And the organization's president, Jacques Rogge, is staying in a University of Utah dormitory room in the Olympic village. It was here, three years ago, that revelations of a bribery scandal sullied the reputation of an organization whose admitted goal is the betterment of the human condition, and spurred the more aggressive reforms in the IOC's 108-year history.

From its temperate choice of Olympic living quarters, to new rules by which cities will bid for the Games, to drug testing at the games, the IOC is taking steps to reshape an organization that, ironically, had come to represent the vices of privilege and power - values directly opposite to the soul of the Games. That corruption was never more apparent than after it was found that the Salt Lake bidding committee had given some $1 million in cash, gifts, and scholarships to various IOC members in order to win the Games.

Late last month, federal prosecutors appealed the dismisal by a Utah federal judge of 15 felony charges, including bribery, against two leaders of Salt Lake City's bid for the games.

The pace of change, most agree, remains slow. Yet with global pressure, and the election of a new president last July, a new emphasis on ethics is emerging.

"It was here, in Salt Lake City, that we first learned of a profound crisis which nearly destroyed the IOC," Mr. Rogge said of the scandal during his opening remarks at Sunday night's ceremony. "Inappropriate structures and human weaknesses on both sides were the root of an evil that would have come to light here or somewhere else."

There was much criticism of the IOC's initial reforms, such as creating an ethics commission and prohibiting members from visiting bid cities. …

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