Samaranch the white van man
Sunday 30 July 2000
Just when he thought it was safe to go back into the water after so nearly drowning in Utah's Salt Lake, Juan Antonio Samaranch, now on his last legs, metaphorically speaking, as president of the International Olympic Comittee, finds himself confronted by yet more scandal and skulduggery. That is, if you believe every word of what has been written by the old boy's bÃªte noire, the British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings who, with precision timing, has trotted out more tales of the expected - palm-greasing, expensesfiddling and excessive free-loading by those involved in the popular Olympic sport of trough-snouting. The Great Olympic Swindle is the title of Jennings' latest tome, published by Simon and Schuster, with the Sydney sportsfest conveniently just over a month away. At £16.99 it is reasonably priced but don't expect International Olympic Committee members to get a copy in their goody bag when checking in at their harbourside haven. Most of them will find it rather unpleasant reading a
Just when he thought it was safe to go back into the water after so nearly drowning in Utah's Salt Lake, Juan Antonio Samaranch, now on his last legs, metaphorically speaking, as president of the International Olympic Comittee, finds himself confronted by yet more scandal and skulduggery. That is, if you believe every word of what has been written by the old boy's bÃªte noire, the British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings who, with precision timing, has trotted out more tales of the expected - palm-greasing, expensesfiddling and excessive free-loading by those involved in the popular Olympic sport of trough-snouting. The Great Olympic Swindle is the title of Jennings' latest tome, published by Simon and Schuster, with the Sydney sportsfest conveniently just over a month away. At £16.99 it is reasonably priced but don't expect International Olympic Committee members to get a copy in their goody bag when checking in at their harbourside haven. Most of them will find it rather unpleasant reading and close to home , with fresh (and some re-hashed) revelations of bribery, drug cover-ups, sex and corruption. There's also a new contender entering the damnation lists: the Russian mafia. Jennings, in a sequel to his previous works which caused Samaranch and buddiesl considerable discomfort, alleges that one of Russia's top 10 bosses of organised crime has manipulated his way into the Olympic family and is battling for control of the $10 billion Games industry. It is fascinating, if fanciful stuff, obtained, Jennings asserts, through secret FBI and Russian government intelligence reports. Jennings' pursuit of Samaranch and his own fascination with the oligarchy-loving octogenarian's fascist past borders on the obsessive but it is a compelling enough read. Whether Samaranch will be fazed by it is doubtful. He reckons the Olympic act has been cleaned up sufficiently for him to step down next year with an untroubled conscience. Or so he was telling the New York Times last week. Lessons have been learned, he said. Why, even His Excellency himself will be cutting downwn on the luxury lifestyle in Sydney. He'll still have his presiden tial suite, of course, to entertain all those fawning VIPs, but instead of the chauffered limousine he'll be swanning around in a van. A what? Well, a van is what he said, and he claims he'll be travelling in it with other IOC folk. Samaranch the white van man? Can't wait to see him drawing up in that outside the stadium. Wonder, too, if he'll ask the Princess Royal to be one of his passengers. She's spoken her mind in the past about IOC excesses and her views on this, and the Russian mafia take-over, should make an interesting conversational topic over the canapes when, as president of the British Olympic Association and an IOC representative, she hosts an on-the-record lunch for selected Olympic hacks at Gatcombe Park tomorrow.
Taxing time for the minister
Having celebrated her first year in office by extracting blood from the stony-faced Chancellor in the form of more money for sport. Kate Hoey is about to embark on another raid on his Exchequer. The sports minister is giving her full support to the campaign to introduce tax breaks for amateur sports clubs and give them charitable status to encourage bequests. "I don't see why sport should be treated any differently from the arts in this respect," she says. Up to now the Treasury have opposed such a move but Hoey is hopeful that "a bit of pressure" from her will do the trick, although probably not before the next Budget. "We are not talking about massive amounts of money here, but every little helps," she says. While she is in campaiging mode (see interview on opposite page) we can expect her to start tackling football clubs about their policy of giving places to young players from overseas in their academies to the disadvantage of British youngsters. "In many cases public money has been involved in setting up these academies and I not sure we should be training up young French players when we are so much in need of nurturing home talent. The Professional Footballers' Association are really concerned about this, and so am I." The minister also wants to see a more influential role for the British Olympic Association, whose style and substance she admires.
A landmark ahead of its time
Unusually for sporting projects in Britain, the new double-pool state-of-the-art swimming complex that will be a landmark for Manchester's Commonwealth Games in 2002 has been completed 10 weeks ahead of schedule and looks like living up to its claim to be the most technically advanced in Europe. Indeed, Ian McCartney, the Cabinet office minister who has been given governmental responsibility for ensuring that the Games are a success, said at last week's opening ceremony that it "knocks Sydney's into a cocked hat". The occasion went swimmingly, so to speak, with Sport England, who have contributed two-thirds of the £32.2m cost, represented by vice-chairman Tessa Sanderson and chief executive Derek Casey. But there was no sign of the body's longest-serving member, the ex-world karate champion Geoff Thompson, even though he is on the organising council for the Games, and something of a celebrity who works with the local ethnic community and lives less than a mile and a half away. Already unhappy with his Sport England role, he is now even less than enamoured after what he perceives as another snub.
Managing the web
Just about everyone else in football has one so it is no surprise to learn that a number of managers are to have their own web site from the start of the season. Derby's Jim Smith and West Ham's Harry Redknapp are the first to go on line. More will follow. Actually, Sir Alex Ferguson is believed to have had a website for some time but no one appears to get through to it.
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