Olympic Games: Swiss attack Winter Games vote

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THE INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee yesterday condemned the "excessive reaction" in Switzerland to Sion's defeat in the vote for the 2006 Winter Games.

The IOC was attacked by Swiss government officials, media and the general public after it awarded the games to Turin on Saturday by a vote of 53- 36. Above a page-wide photograph of women crying in the streets of Sion, on the front of a 20-page supplement which was supposed to be a victory souvenir issue, the daily Le Matin asked, "Why?" The weekly SonntagsBlick thought it had the answer: "It was revenge".

The Swiss believed they had the bidding sewn up. It was Sion's third application; the IOC technical commission had given the bid top marks; and the support from government, business and public was overwhelming. Further, the Swiss had pressed their conception of Sion as the "fair play games".

Celebrations began the day before the announcement. In spite of the bidding committee's caution and warnings about the damage done by the Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler when he blew the whistle on corruption, few doubted the result.

The Swiss disappointment and sense of having been cheated was not eased by television pictures of Turin - where most people did not even know the bid was taking place and no one was celebrating.

"Are we bad losers?" asked Le Matin. "No. But the victory of a town which everyone agreed was inferior to Sion (except in terms of financial clout), the triumph of a candidate without popular support... everything makes us wonder about the behind-the-scenes forces which control the IOC today."

At the IOC Museum in Lausanne, staff reported that people were coming in and asking them how they could work for such a corrupt organisation. A statue was defaced with the word "Mafia" and police stepped up their presence in the face of possible demonstrations.

All the Sunday newspapers in Switzerland agreed that at least part of the reason for Sion's loss was a backlash against Hodler. It was the Swiss lawyer and long-serving IOC member who revealed much of the corruption surrounding the IOC which led to a series of expulsions and resignations.

"They wanted to punish Switzerland, and they have done it," Hodler said.

An editorial in SonntagsBlick agreed, saying "Marc Hodler said what had to be said in the context of the IOC corruption scandal... Now Sion has to pay for that."

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