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Olympic Games: IOC disputes accusation of `flourishing' corruption

A SENIOR official from the International Olympic Committee yesterday disputed an American ethics panel's contention that the committee fostered a "culture of improper gift giving" that led to corruption in the bidding process for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

The US Olympic Committee panel levelled most of the blame for the Salt Lake City vote-buying controversy at the IOC. The report said the conduct "tolerated by the IOC is potentially illegal and inevitably corruptive". It also suggested leaders ignored corruption that was "flourishing". The report accused the IOC of creating the atmosphere responsible for the improper inducements, which have seen nine IOC members either sacked or resign.

However, Kevan Gosper, an IOC executive board member from Australia, said the report failed to acknowledge that since 1987 the committee has had rules on gifts and travel related to the bidding process.

"It's quite unacceptable to say that the IOC has created an environment which has enabled gift giving and rewards to run out of control," Gosper said. "I take strong objection to that. We have rules and we have constantly refined those rules. An organisation like ours relies on candidate cities and IOC members to comply with those rules. If they had, we wouldn't have had the problems we did in Salt Lake City."

Gosper conceded, however, that IOC leaders should have done more to enforce the rules. "We haven't sufficiently pursued the compliance in terms of IOC members and the candidate cities," he said.