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For week ended January 3, 1999 Posted 21 Jan 1999
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Ex-bid panel member: Gifts common practice

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Ex-bid panel member: Gifts common practice
Ogden UT Standard-Examiner 30Dec98

Under the recent cloud of allegations that the Salt Lake Olympic Committee bought the right to host the 2002 Olympics, the Justice Department and FBI have said they will conduct an independent investigation. It will be apparently looking into tax exempt issues and gifts to foreign officials, as the result of the committee's years long all out effort to woo the International Olympic Committee. In addition to that, the IOC, SLOC and the USOC are conducting separate inquiries, looking for possible abuses and considering rule changes for future site selection bids.

What is at question is the giving of gifts by the SLOC to IOC members over a long period of time. The gifts include souvenirs, trips, ski resort passes, etc. The idea was that IOC members and people who might sway their votes, would be wined and dined and toured all over Utah in an all out effort to sell them on selecting the state. It also includes being granted audiences with the governor and mayors, and sometimes even with Mormon Church leaders. Eventually it even included college scholarships to six children of IOC officials and some donated medical care. Between 1985 and 1995, the bid committee spent most of the $15 million it raised privately trying to impress the visitors with what Utah was doing.

SLOC had tried a bid for the 1972 and 1976 Winter Games but was really never in the running. After two years of study, a feasibility committee said SLOC had to raise major amounts of money and needed hang in there over the long haul to win the Games. What was required was an all out, "no holds barred" effort. That became the goal and objective.

In 1985, the bid committee was set up and immediately lost to Anchorage, Alaska, as U.S. candidate for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. However, the SLOC kept working and four years later was picked to represent the United States for the 1998 and 2002 Games. Nagano, Japan then edged out SLOC to host the 1998 Olympics. However, four years later, in June 1995, SLOC perseverance finally paid off with its selection to be the site for 2002.

Robert Hunter, an SLOC official, said in regards to the gifts, that they stayed within the law and saw nothing wrong in what was done. "That's something I've always thought of as a common practice. It was a natural thing to give them something. I think for the most part good judgment was used."

Hunter said that over the years they all became like family. Every thing was done above board and every one treated the same. "You do it and it's fun and out of it you see people come together," he said. "But, there was never any clandestine plan and everybody saw what we were doing for years."

"I don't have the list of everyone," said Hunter, "but I know we showed the same hospitality to all visitors from the IOC family who came to Utah. Just about all IOC members came here and they've all benefited from gifts. All of our guests were treated very, very well,"

Hunter is encouraging all people connected to be completely open and very forthcoming in any effort to investigate the SLOC's activities. He feels that they have nothing to hide and should not be ashamed. However, he fears that the investigators may be pressured find some scapegoats to punish in some fashion to satisfy the complainers.

"In hindsight, was it worth it? Would I do it again? In a heart beat," Hunter said. "The exposure to other cultures and how we relate to the rest of the world has been overwhelmingly beneficial for Utah. And hopefully we'll be better off because we took this look at ourselves." He hopes that any new rules would not put a damper on that beneficial cultural exchange.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information