IOC snub Salt Lake - again

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The Independent Online

The International Olympic Committee is snubbing Salt Lake City for a second time.

The International Olympic Committee is snubbing Salt Lake City for a second time.

An IOC executive board meeting scheduled for Salt Lake in February has been moved to Senegal, putting an ocean of distance between IOC members and the U.S. government's Olympic prosecution.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch wants to pay homage to Africa before he steps down in July, IOC spokesman Franklin Servan-Schreiber said Tuesday. The switch could boost Africa's chances of holding its first Olympics.

An IOC meeting set for Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Salt Lake last February was moved to Sydney, Australia, where IOC members said they needed to check on Olympic preparations. Along the way, they avoided FBI questioning in the Olympic bid scandal.

The IOC then promised to reschedule the U.S. meeting for this February, when members could check firsthand on progress of the 2002 Winter Games. That would have been the IOC's first U.S. meeting since the 1996 Atlanta games.

"It's up to the IOC to determine where their executive board meetings are held. We were not planning on hosting them in 2001. We look forward to their visit in 2002," said Caroline Shaw, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The change of plans comes after IOC vice president Keba Mbaye of Senegal complained last month about embarrassing Salt Lake disclosures.

The 28-page dossier on the personal habits, loyalties and family needs of IOC members compiled by Salt Lake bidders was retrieved under subpoena by U.S. federal government authorities. It was publicly released last May by SLOC President Mitt Romney a day after the U.S. Justice Department said it wouldn't prosecute the organizing committee.

At the Sydney Games, Romney warned the IOC that the American justice system most likely would result in other embarrassing disclosures.

Salt Lake bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson face a trial in June on 15 felony counts alleging they masterminded a wide-ranging bribery conspiracy from 1989 to 1999.

Welch and Johnson are accused of plying IOC members with dlrs 1 million in cash, first-class travel, scholarships and expensive gifts. If convicted on all counts, the bid executives could be imprisoned for up to 75 years.

Welch, Johnson and their lawyers plan to question Olympic players who figure in the indictment. The U.S. Justice Department has not gone after foreigners except for the son of IOC vice president Kim Un-yong of South Korea. John Kim was charged last year with immigration fraud and lying to the FBI.

Anita DeFrantz, the IOC's highest-ranking American, said the scandal is unrelated to the snubbing of Salt Lake.

"I could be wrong. But to my knowledge it was something more to do with the global nature of our institution," DeFrantz said. "We've missed Africa... It's been too long. We needed to go back."

Africa last played host to an IOC meeting in 1977 in the Ivory Coast.