Cities may sue IOC over bids lost to bribes

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The Independent Online
THE EMBATTLED International Olympic Committee (IOC) faces the threat of legal action for compensation by cities which have lost out in the awarding of the games.

Facing the worst corruption scandal in the IOC's history and increasing calls for his resignation, Juan Antonio Samaranch, its president, yesterday promised widespread changes in the way the venues for the games will be chosen.

But Manchester and Stockholm, whose bids to stage the Olympics failed under questionable circumstances, yesterday demanded that they should be compensated. Similar claims are expected to come from Istanbul, Berlin and Winnipeg, all of which lost bids for summer or winter games.

Manchester, which lost out to Sydney as the venue for next year's games, has asked its legal advisers to scrutinise the IOC report and is arranging talks with other cities that lost in their bids. Sydney's successful bid is now at the centre of the latest bribery allegation.

Richard Leese, Manchester city council leader, said yesterday: "If the selection competition is unfair and corrupt then the IOC should consider compensating Manchester and other bid cities."

Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, also proposed financial compensation for Manchester, adding: "We need to know when Sydney hosts the Olympics next year whether the city or the organisers are going to make a profit. If they are going to make a profit, that question [compensation] does seriously arise."

Officials in Stockholm also said they would be seeking a refund for the costs of around pounds 15m for its failed 2004 bid for the games, which went to Athens.

Deputy mayor, Margareta Olofsson, said: "I hope other cities will do the same. Maybe we can get back the costs of participating. It's so obvious that the cities did not compete on equal terms. Votes have been bought through corruption and cities that did not use these methods have not had a chance."

However, authorities in Peking, which lost by a thin margin to Sydney in its bid to host the 2000 Olympics, were last night still deciding how best to respond. Even if Sydney is stripped of the games, Peking is not believed to be ready to step in. The Chinese government has also announced its intention to bid for the 2008 summer Games and is said to be apprehensive about alienating potential support.

Meanwhile, allegations of corruption surrounding the games continued yesterday with fresh allegations that the award of last year's winter games to Nagano, in Japan, was accompanied by IOC members being entertained in geisha parties, and receiving expensive gifts and first-class flights for their families.

It was also claimed that one IOC member was treated for surgery to remove bags under his eyes at the expense of Salt Lake City, which won the rights to the 2002 winter games.

Former minister John Gummer, who was involved in the Manchester bid, maintained the IOC encouraged a culture of corruption. "Travelling in the lap of luxury around the world, lauded wherever they went, these members of the IOC had the power to make individuals, cities and even nations rich."