Scandal-hit IOC bans its members from visiting Olympic bidding cities

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THE INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee (IOC) voted yesterday to ban its members from visiting all cities bidding to hold the Games, despite opposition from a British member - the Princess Royal - who called the plan unworkable.

The reform - part of measures aimed at restoring credibility to the organisation - was pushed through by Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president, who hailed the eventual vote as "historic".

He brushed aside the protests of delegates at the meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, who said the decision implied that IOC members could not be trusted. Only 10 of the 100 delegates voted to allow visits.

Mr Samaranch will now hope that the tough new rules draw a line under the corruption scandal that has dogged the IOC for a year. It began with accusations over Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Ten IOC members were expelled or forced to resign for accepting cash, lavish gifts, free travel, scholarships or other inducements.

"What we did today marks a historic page in our long history," Mr Samaranch said, closing the two-day meeting. "We promised to the world to change, and we are delivering this change."

But Princess Anne, one of Britain's two IOC members, argued against the measures on practical grounds, saying they could make major cities bidding for an Olympics virtual "no-go areas" for herself and colleagues. She said: "Paris is a big city. Are you saying that I can't go to a rugby match in case the stadium is part of a bid? This is difficult, and I think those who wanted to go could have gone on a controlled basis," she told the BBC. "I respect the decision, I don't have any trouble with it; I just think it is a very difficult one to enforce."

The often lavish trips round the world to inspect would-be Olympic cities' facilities was considered a major perk of IOC membership. A rival motion, which failed, called for tightly-regulated visits arranged and funded by the IOC.

A total of 50 reforms were agreed, marking a radical restructuring of the 105-year-old body. They included the introduction of a renewable, eight-year term for IOC members and a lowering of the age limit for new members from 80 to 70.