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IOC members `took pounds 70,000' each in vote for games site

SOME MEMBERS of the International Olympic Committ received payments of more than pounds 70,000 each to vote for Salt Lake City as the 2002 Winter Games venue, it was revealed yesterday.

TheIOC vice-president, Dick Pound, told The Washington Post that there "is solid, irrefutable evidence" that at least a dozen IOC members or their relatives received cash, gifts or donations from members of the Salt Lake bid committee. Some benefits totalled in excess of $100,000, he suggested.

"When you see it in black and white, it's pretty blatant stuff, so I don't think the people involved are going to be able to explain it away. But we'll see," Mr Pound said. He is conducting the inquiry by the IOC into corruption allegations. His report will be released in Lausanne on Sunday, and the IOC is expected to recommend the expulsion of between eight and sixteen members.

Yesterday it was announced that Utah's attorney general has begun yet another inquiry into Salt Lake City's bid - the fifth official investigation into the corruption allegations.

The ripples from the Utah probe have now spread to other cities that were previous hosts to the Olympics. Officials in Nagano, Japan, revealed that records of its bid for 1998 Winter Olympics had been incinerated; and the IOC has agreed to give up its tax-exempt status in Switzerland because of the scandal.

The Utah affair first erupted before Christmas with word of murky contributions and scholarships given to IOC members shortly before they were to vote on the site of the 2002 Olympics at a meeting in Budapest in 1995. The allegations have brought humiliation to Salt Lake City, a mountain metropolis usually associated with the Mormon Church. The US Justice Department may also bring charges.

Details emerged yesterday of lavish hospitality given by Nagano to IOC members in 1991 when it was lobbying for the Winter Games of two years ago. Entertainment extended to members included helicopter rides and lavish dinners with geisha girls in attendance. Among many gifts distributed was an oil painting by a famous Japanese artist worth pounds 16,200 given to Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the IOC, sources said. Mr Samaranch, however, is exempt from rules limiting the value of gifts, because he is not a voting member. The painting is now hanging on the wall of IOC headquarters, a committee spokesman said yesterday.

To pre-empt any suspicion of bribery in Sydney's successful pitch for next year's summer Games, the state of New South Wales will today release Olympics contracts that had been classified as secret.