And Bribe-Proofing the IOC

The International Olympics Committee last week received yet another low score. The report of a special ethics panel formed by the US Olympics Committee blasted the IOC for fostering a "culture" of bribery.

The panel, headed by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, did the IOC a service. It specified a number of sensible measures for rooting out corruption.

Among the most telling: have outside sports bodies, rather than the IOC itself, elect new committee members; conduct independent, publicly disclosed audits of IOC financial reports; require the IOC, or individual committee members, to pay for trips to cities that seek to host an Olympics.

Such steps would go a long way toward removing the tarnish that threatens to darken one of the world's most positive international events. It's foolish to think that the ideals embodied by the Olympics can be upheld by an organization that is itself saddled with graft.

When it meets March 17, the IOC should continue ejecting members who took payoffs from cities bidding for the Games. But, more important, it should move decisively toward the kind of far-reaching steps outlined by the Mitchell panel.

Corporate sponsors of the Olympics will closely watch that meeting. If genuine change is not forthcoming, they must demand an independent audit of IOC operations and stand ready to withdraw their support from the games if that isn't done.

Action should have been taken long ago, since the pattern of improper gift-giving and favors has been known for at least eight years - ever since the organizers of Toronto's unsuccessful bid for the summer Olympics protested abuses by IOC members. Given the numerous other investigations of Olympics-related wrongdoing under way in the US and abroad, pressues on the IOC to reform will only grow.

Meanwhile, the US Olympics Committee must sprint ahead with the panel's proposals to exercise much tighter oversight of Olympics bids by US cities.

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