Ethical Equivocation

By Priest, Jim T. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

Ethical Equivocation


Priest, Jim T., THE JOURNAL RECORD


A recent edition of The New York Times carried two full pages on the scandals involving the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee. In case you've been Rip Van Winkling, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been investigating wrongdoing by the folks in Salt Lake City who worked hard to get the 2002 Winter Olympics to be held in their town.

The IOC representatives voted last summer to hold the games in Salt Lake but in the aftermath of that announcement some truth began leaking out. It seems the Salt Lake representatives tried a little too hard to get those games and, in some cases, resorted to unethical means to persuade IOC members to cast their ballots for Utah. Extravagant gifts and payments were channeled to some members of the IOC in an effort to incline them toward Salt Lake. They were so inclined, but the motivation behind their inclination has come under scrutiny.

Take for example the case of IOC member David Sibandze from Swaziland. In the months leading up to the IOC vote, Sibandze's son, Sibo, found himself the lucky recipient of a full scholarship to the University of Utah. The scholarship was provided by the Salt Lake City bid committee through a program designed to "promote humanitarian effort by allowing students from developing nations gain an education and become productive citizens in their respective countries." Sibo Sibandze also got a nice job at Easton Sports a mere six weeks before the IOC (and David Sibandze) were to vote on Salt Lake. Once again, the job was arranged through the bid committee. Both banks James Easton, president of Easton Sports (and also a member of the IOC), said he didn't know about the job given to Sibandze until about three months after it happened, but he didn't see anything wrong with it or the scholarship. "My reputation is the most valuable thing I own," Easton said. "I certainly didn't feel I was doing anything improper in cooperating with the bid committee in getting the games here." But later in the Times' article, Easton said, in retrospect, he wouldn't have hired Sibandze. "At the time we and other companies in Salt Lake wanted to help the bid committee any way we could to be successful. The bank hired people. The state did. The city did." In addressing the issue of the scholarship money, Easton remarked, "as it was designed (the scholarship program) was proper; as it was used, it wasn't. It became a catchall for anything they wanted to use for the solicitation of votes. …

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