Olympics: Savage attack on 2002 host city

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AN INFLUENTIAL member of the International Olympic Committee made a savage attack on Salt Lake City yesterday, describing it as the birthplace of Olympic corruption.

On the opening day of the IOC's 109th session, relayed live on television for the first time, IOC members also squabbled with Sydney over a decision to cut back IOC perks during the 2000 Olympic Games.

The Mexican press baron, Mario Vazquez Rana, who heads the Assocation of National Olympic Committees and is an IOC powerbroker, told a visiting delegation from Salt Lake City, the host of the 2002 Winter Games, that they would never be forgiven for besmirching the Olympic movement.

Ten IOC members lost their jobs after the exposure of a million-dollar vote-buying scam by the Salt Lake bid team earlier this year, provoking the worst crisis in IOC history. "I can assure you that the problem inherent to corruption was born from people in Salt Lake City," Vazquez Rana said. "We will have always been besmirched. I'm sorry to say that this is something that comes from that wonderful country, the United States of America."

However, Michael Knight, who is head of the committee organising the Sydney Olympics in 2000, put a slightly different twist on the IOC's thorniest issue and antagonised some delegates by lecturing members on the need for reform just two days after cutting millions of dollars in IOC "luxuries" from the Sydney budget.

Briefing the organisation on Sydney's preparations, Knight blamed a Sydney budget shortfall on the IOC's recent corruption and said the IOC should "share some of our pain".

"We are relieved you have begun the necessary process of reforms," added Knight, the president of Sydney organising committee. "The process must be followed through."