IOC gets brief respite from bribery scandal
Sydney's successful Games took the spotlight away from the Olympic bribery scandal for a few weeks but the Salt Lake City affair is not over yet.
The Olympic flame will be lit again in less than 18 months in the U.S. city when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have a new president after next year's retirement of Juan Antonio Samaranch.
The new boss, hotly tipped to be Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge, is likely to walk into an explosive situation.
Ten members have been forced to leave the IOC in the past two years after being accused of breaking rules on accepting gifts from Salt Lake City when it was bidding for the Games.
During the Sydney Olympics it was announced in the U.S. city that a federal magistrate had set a June 1 trial date for two former officials charged with fraud stemming from efforts to bring the Games to Utah.
As the IOC's chief coordinator of the Sydney Games, Rogge was able to bask in the success of the Games on Sunday.
But, if he wins the vote for president in Moscow next July, Rogge is likely to take charge of an organisation at a time when its membership may have come under heavy fire in a U.S. court.
Samaranch admitted in Sydney that he feared the scandal could blow up again during the 2002 Games. The U.S. Justice Department is still investigating the affair.
The IOC president said it was possible that documents about IOC members, presently in the hands of the U.S. government, could be made public during the Games.
"During the Olympics documents can be published that will (cause) a lot of bad image not only for the IOC but also for the Games in Salt Lake City," the IOC president said.
"I am very much worried that this problem goes on and on and will not be finished during the Games in Salt Lake City. That is my thinking and I think it is the thinking of the members of the International Olympic Committee."
The main job, however, of the IOC is to choose a city capable of running successful Games.
That is the main concern of the sponsors and television networks that pay millions of dollars to back them even though executives were clearly concerned by the corruption scandal.
In that respect Sydney has been a huge success and members can congratulate themselves on their choice of venue.
After the scandal the IOC has introduced several reforms including banning members from visiting cities bidding for the Games.
Rogge said he believed the success of Sydney would give the IOC a boost.
"I think definitely it will help because it would not be credible anymore to continue the message that everything is bad, that the movement is on the brink of collapse, that the Games are going to disappear when you see the huge popular success here," he said.
"The wide appeal around the world proves that the Games are extremely strong and that the dream of all athletes to participate in the Games is still intact and that the people of the world want this."
But asked if the Salt Lake scandal would raise its head again, he said: "We might have a small eruption here and there but I think the fundamental message is that people want to turn the page.
"Of course, turning the page means for the IOC to respect its own rules and reforms but I think the page is turned now."
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