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Sex bribes alleged in Olympic bid

THE SALT Lake City Olympic Committee, embroiled in a bribery scandal, is facing new allegations that it paid for sex for International Olympic Committee members during its successful bid to win the 2002 Winter Games.

The Governor of Utah Mike Leavitt said an Ethics Committee in Salt Lake City was looking into allegations that Olympic bid committee credit cards were used to pay for sexual favours for IOC members. The governor did not say if the credit cards were used for female escort services in Utah or abroad.

Salt Lake, headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, worked for 30 years to win a chance to host the Games, but it is now known that its bid organisers paid for housing, travel, education, expensive gifts and even helped one IOC member put together a profitable property deal in Utah.

Concerns are mounting that the scandal may cause sponsors to withdraw. US West, the regional telephone company, is withholding a $5m (pounds 3m) payment until allegations are cleared up.

Last night, for the first time, the spectre of an alternative venue for the 2002 Games was raised when Calgary in Canada offered to step in if Utah is deemed unfit to host the Games.

Sponsors' confidence will not have been helped when Tom Welch, the former president of the Salt Lake Organising Committee, admitted giving $50,000 cash to Jean-Claude Ganga, an IOC member from the Republic of Congo. Mr Ganga sought the money to help children in the African nation ravaged by civil strife, Mr Welch said. He also acknowledged that the bid committee made a $10,000 contribution to the campaign of Chilean IOC member Sergio Santander Fantini, who was running for mayor of Santiago. But Mr Welch denied that prostitutes were hired for IOC members visiting Salt Lake.

With reference to previous reports that Salt Lake hospitals gave IOC members free medical care, including cosmetic surgery, Mr Welch said he secured medical care for Mr Ganga when he was sick with hepatitis and Mr Ganga's mother when she had an infected knee.

Four investigations, including one by the United States Justice Department, are underway into all the allegations. (AP/Reuter)