Japan felt pressure to pay IOC for Games

Nagano mayor says Olympic body pushed city to possible excess inbidding.

Just hours after the International Olympic Committee sought to show resolve in cleaning up the worst corruption scandal in the history of the games, things got worse.

Following repeated denials, yesterday the mayor of Nagano - the host of the 1998 winter Games - acknowledged that "excess" may have marked some aspects of his city's bid to host the Olympics.

"At the time, we were in a position of getting them to choose us, so it was difficult to refuse the demands of the IOC members if they wanted to go to places like Kyoto," Tasuku Tsukada said, referring to Japan's cultural capital, where some IOC members spent more time than they did inspecting facilities in Nagano.

"But there was no request for money," said the mayor at a Monday press conference. "As far as I heard and saw there was none. But there were many IOC members, sports groups, and businesses involved, so I don't know what sort of action might have happened where."

In a Monitor interview last week, Mr. Tsukada seemed more certain that the Nagano bid committee had not wooed the IOC in the same way as the Salt Lake City bid committee did. But he suggested that the organization should put limits on the terms of IOC members, include outside experts in selecting host cities, and open the selection process to the public.

The organizers of the Olympics have been through tough times before - such as a terrorist attack during the 1972 games and the US pullout from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow - but never have they themselves been so widely criticized.

The IOC is a private organization, so the charges against its members may be more a matter of shame than criminality. But, for an organization that exists to promote amateur athletics, revelations that its members are extorting money and favors from cities that want to host the Games are embarrassing indeed.

At IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sunday evening - not long before Tsukada's press conference - IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch apologized for the scandal. "The members violated their Olympic oath and betrayed the confidence put in them by the Olympic family," he said, announcing that six members accused of accepting cash and gifts from Salt Lake City bid officials would be recommended for expulsion.

Here in Nagano, apologies aren't satisfying some citizen groups. The Anti-Olympics People's Network is calling for the disbanding of the IOC, and another plans to sue for the return of tax revenues spent on Nagano's Olympic bid.

City officials find themselves in a difficult position. While in general denying any impropriety in their own bid, they have also had to acknowledge their committee decided to destroy 90 cartons of bid committee documents less than a year after Nagano was awarded the games in June 1991.

Up in smoke went detailed accounts of how the committee spent $17 million - 42 percent of which came from public funds - to pursue the Games. One retired government official who was a senior member of the committee calls the disposal "very strange."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the man says he is not surprised by what he is reading in the papers these days. "I myself never experienced any demands by IOC members for money or anything like that." Even so, he adds, "I had heard stories about members being used to very lavish treatment and to being given bribes."

One member of Nagano's city assembly, who also insisted his name not be used, calls IOC members "greedy extortionists" and says he is angered by people questioning whether the Nagano bid committee offered bribes when it was the IOC members who demanded them.

"If you bid for the Olympic Games, people know it takes money and maybe bribes," the politician says. "If you're in that position and you really want the Games you have no choice."

As for Nagano's bid, he adds, "it cost a lot. It took real money."

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