IOC visits to Salt Lake hit Olympic budget

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So many IOC members visited Salt Lake City while the city was bidding for the Olympics that local boosters had difficulty raising enough money to cover the travel bills.

So many IOC members visited Salt Lake City while the city was bidding for the Olympics that local boosters had difficulty raising enough money to cover the travel bills.

More than 70 members of the International Olympic Committee visited Salt Lake during the bidding for the 2002 Winter Games, according to confidential documents obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press.

The IOC banned visits to bid cities as part of a package of reforms adopted last weekend in the wake of the Salt Lake bribery scandal.

Salt Lake boosters fretted over a particularly "high-expense month" in September 1994, when IOC members and site experts arrived to evaluate the city's bid. Notes from the same confidential meeting warned of a cash shortage that month.

"We were always struggling, working hard to raise money," former bid leader Tom Welch recalled in an interview on Thursday. "A major portion of the bills was for bringing IOC members in."

The Associated Press obtained copies of notes of bid-committee executive board meetings from December 1988 through January 1999.

The typed notes - the same documents already turned over to federal investigators - were released by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee under a new open-records policy.

But two years of notes were missing even as bid trustees began meeting weekly instead of monthly in 1990 and 1991, when Salt Lake was bidding for the 1998 Winter Games, which eventually went to Nagano, Japan.

SLOC lawyers explained the missing notes as covering a period of "informal" board meetings.

"To my knowledge, minutes were not taken of these meetings during that period," said Kelly Flint, who took over note-taking duties in November 1991 when Salt Lake increased its bid efforts.

From then on, IOC visits at organizers' expense were a regular event. In February 1995, Welch warned trustees that "the budget was tight for bringing IOC members to Salt Lake City."

During the same meeting, trustees emphasized "the importance of bringing all IOC members who are willing to come to Salt Lake City."

By May 1995, a month before Salt Lake won the Olympic bid, 70 IOC members had visited Salt Lake and another three were on their way.

The visits often were fruitful.

Dave Johnson, the No 2 bid official who like Welch has since resigned, reported in March 1993 on a visit by five IOC members and several US Olympic Committee officials: "The weekend had been very successful," the meeting notes said, quoting Johnson.

Travel wasn't the only big expense. Bid boosters spent $155,000 on leather-bound bid books for IOC members.

The meeting notes refer often to efforts by Welch and Johnson to secure IOC votes, but they contain little or no detail.

A typical passage reads, "Mr Welch delivered a report on the bid committee's international campaign. A discussion followed." The minutes do not reveal what was discussed.

Aside from travel, the only gift mentioned in the official notes for IOC members was neckties, which were produced for the losing 1989 bid to Nagano.

Salt Lake's winning bid included $1.2 million in gifts, cash payments, travel and scholarships for IOC members and their relatives, all documented by an ethics panel last February.

The revelations provoked the worst scandal in Olympic history, leading to the just-adopted IOC reforms.

The bid committee's notes also show that early on, Salt Lake was warned that the IOC viewed Utah's restrictive liquor laws as a "hindrance" to its bid. But Olympic trustees were said to be unwilling to lobby for changes.