More calls for Samaranch to resign

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The Independent Online

International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch told skeptical US lawmakers today that the IOC has become more open, accountable and responsive following widespread abuses in the selection of Atlanta and Salt Lake City to host Olympic games.

International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch told skeptical US lawmakers today that the IOC has become more open, accountable and responsive following widespread abuses in the selection of Atlanta and Salt Lake City to host Olympic games.

"I think we've cleaned the house and a fundamental reform package has been adopted," Samaranch said in his first ever appearance before an American congressional panel.

But lawmakers greeted the 79-year-old Spaniard with open disbelief that the 50 reforms the IOC adopted last weekend in Switzerland will be implemented fully. And one, Rep. Joe Barto reiterated his call for Samaranch to resign from the post he has held since 1980.

"I would like for you to announce today that you will resign," Barton said. "It's time for some new blood and some new leadership. And this would be a great setting for you to be a true statesman of sport and announce that."

Samaranch did not respond directly to Barton when he delivered his opening statement. Instead, he used it to retrace the IOC's actions during the year since the allegations of vote buying erupted over the selection of Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Games.

Samaranch said many of the reforms approved by the IOC last weekend already have been implemented, including a ban on future visits by IOC members to cities competing to host the games. And he assured the House of Representatives' Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations that the rest of the reforms will be implemented before the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, are over.

But Rep. Fred Upton chairman of the panel, said statements by IOC members following the meeting last weekend give him little confidence that changes will be made.

"The conduct by IOC members and the bidding cities did not spring up yesterday and it will not go away simply because there are new rules written on a piece of paper," he said.

Rep. Henry Waxman warned Samaranch that the US Congress will monitor the IOC's enforcement of the newly enacted reforms and will take punitive action if necessary. He specifically cited legislation he has introduced that would bar American companies from financially supporting the games if the IOC does not change its practices.

Samaranch brought along some important allies, including former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger was a key member of the IOC 2000 panel that drafted the reforms.

The reforms include a ban on IOC member visits to bid cities, the addition of 15 active athletes to the IOC, and new rules on age limits and terms of office - all designed to make the 105-year-old organization younger and more accountable.

"We did what we promised," said Samaranch, who had delayed his appearance before the American congress until after the vote on the reform package.

Lawmakers also were poised to ask Spaniard about the $12,000 trip his wife and friend made in 1990 at the expense of Atlanta's Olympic bid team. Anticipating those questions, Samaranch said in a written statement to the panel that his wife accepted the Atlanta invitation "in the spirit in which it and so many others have been offered, friendship and hospitality."

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Billy Payne, who headed the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, acknowledged during hearings in October that Atlanta violated IOC gift rules in lobbying for the 1996 games.

But they denied that the gifts and favors showered on IOC members were designed to buy their votes or corrupt the process that led to Atlanta's selection.

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