Did Rio Pay Bribes?
Sunday October 18, 2009
Happy clappy times, we all want to do the Olympic Samba on Copacabana beach in 2016. That sums up the offerings of the commentariat on why the Brazilians won the Games.
Ten years on from the Salt Lake scandal of cash-and-sex for votes we are assured by IOC President Rogge that corruption in his ranks has been exterminated.
Let’s bust the Olympic taboo here in Copenhagen this past week. Let’s talk about the time-honoured tradition of Olympic bribery.
Question: Who was the most powerful voice inside the IOC working for Rio? Step forward their most senior member, 46 years on the job, former president of FIFA and accused by the BBC’s most prestigious public affairs programme (yes, I spoke the words) of being deeply involved in bribes and kickbacks.
It’s João Havelange, now a lively 93, a man who knows everything that is to be known about the IOC. I’m not saying that he or Rio paid bribes – but consider this. Earlier in the week, just after Rio won, a sharp photographer snapped Havelange shaking hands with . . . Jean-Marie Weber, the Bagman.
The Bagman, as I have reported, admitted to a Swiss court last year paying $100 million worth of bribes to sports officials in the 1990s. So what were they congratulating each other about?
Bagman Weber is much liked by more IOC members. We filmed him chatting intimately with African soccer boss Issa Hayatou and gliding around the Bella Center, patting the arms of more IOC members. Did they vote for Rio? They won’t say.
And then there was Herr Blatter, a FIFA functionary for more than 30 years, a great friend of the Bagman and now an IOC member. Blatter has been linked to the Bagman bribes scandals and is still under the influence of Havelange.
It looked like old friends performing their old games on a new stage. It was so charming to see Havelange sitting in the IOC Session next to his old comrade Vitaly Smirnov, so lucky to keep his seat after the Salt Lake scandal.
Even before the vote Havelange was boasting that he had, for sure, 20 members in the bag. Or did he mean the Bagman’s bag?
One more old friend – and a clue that there are some at the IOC who may seek to wind the clock back to the bad old days.
A keynote speech at the Congress was given by Germany’s ambitious Thomas Bach. When he had finished, Blatter eulogised him as ‘presidential.’
What did Bach have to say to the IOC members? He told them they were important – but had to remain ‘independent’ with no mandates from outside. This was a dig at the handful of new members from the international federations, forced on the IOC after the 1999 scandal. They are not independent and many IOC members resent their presence at The Old Boys Private Club.
Bach asked his audience, would they prefer an ‘IOC mainly composed of independent members who have authority, knowledge and experience also in politics, business, culture and society?’ That’s the code. There is no mention of ‘sport.’ And many IOC members have little connection to sport.
What is Bach’s background? He won a fencing Gold in Montreal and soon after was hired to the notorious Adidas ‘international relations team’ – aka the dirty tricks squad who moulded the IOC, FIFA and many other international federations to the wishes of the legendary fixer Horst Dassler. His new ISL company got the big sports marketing contracts . . . and the Bagman delivered the bribes.
Dassler put Havelange in power at FIFA in 1974 and chose the young Blatter to be his right hand man.
If, when Rogge steps down in four years time, Herr Bach is elected president, some will see the IOC shedding many of its meagre ‘reforms’ and reverting to its old identity.
And in a grave far away Horst Dassler, who died in 1987 will be marvelling that nearly three decades later, he is still the power in world sport.
Sunday Herald – It may be a new stage but is game still the same?
Read Andrew’s article in the Danish newspaper ‘Ekstra Bladet’