Organized Crime and IOC Corruption Undermine the Olympic Games Integrity
The miasma of organized crime hangs over the Olympics Games that open Sept 15 in Sidney, Australia, with the apparent connivance of the increasingly corrupt International Olympic Committee, the IOC, under the presidency of Antonio Samaranch. Grave allegations to this effect appear in a new book The Great Olympic Swindle (Simon & Schuster) by Andrew Jennings and Clare Sambrook, long-time crusaders for a radical cleanup of the Olympic stables. The book also reads like a who’s who of the world’s most corrupt rulers in the last twenty years.
The Australian authorities’ refusal of entry to two men named in the book, Gafur Rakhimov, an International Amateur Boxing Association official from Uzbekistan, and Carl Ching, a vice president for the International Basketball Federation from Hong Kong, was protested by IOC officials and the Uzbek government and defended by the Australian prime minister as “the right decision”. Indeed, the Australian immigration office revealed Tuesday that between 20 and 40 Olympic officials had been allowed in, although they figured on Australia’s “alert list” of 140,000 people barred from the country on such grounds as war crimes, possessing criminal histories or being under UN sanction. However, the Australian government stood by its refusal to admit jailed Olympic Committee member Mohamad “Bob” Hasan of Indonesia, despite the IOC’s pressing demands. Hasan is in jail in Jakarta, under investigation for corruption under the Suharto regime.
Eight years ago, a judge in Lausanne imposed a five day suspended sentence in absentia on Jennings for writing that some IOC members had solicited bribes from Olympic bidding cities and that their leader Samaranch was a former Franco fascist. Allegations that Salt Lake City bid committee members tried to bribe IOC members with cash, gifts and vacations spurred a US justice Department investigation last year and led to an appearance by Samaranch before a congressional hearing in December 1999. This week, IOC members discussed legal action against the Salt Lake City Committee for what they called libelous slurs in dossiers compiled on IOC members before the 2002 Games were awarded in 1995.
As for the Rakhimov, Jennings charged this week that the IOC had known for at least 18 months about his alleged mafia activities and can name IOC members who tried unsuccessfully to get action.
“They were ignored by Samaranch,” Jennings says. “A year ago I told the AIBA’s new general secretary Loring Baker from Australia that the FBI held a file on his friend Rakhimov. Mr Baker told me the FBI often gets its facts wrong.”
According to a more recent Jennings anecdote, “In the lobby of Sydney’s Regent Hotel on Friday, IOC member Major-General Francis Nyangweso, once Idi Amin’s army chief, assured me Rakhimov was a fine man…”
Jennings wonders why Samaranch demanded of Prime Minister John Howard a full explanaton for the banning order on Rakhimov and also an alleged Chinese gangster, Carl Ching. “Why stick up for a man the Australian government says is a threat to public safety? Why has not the ‘Olympic family’ not rid itself of Rakhimov?
His answer: “Linking them is the notorious French money mover Andre Guelfi, an associate of Samaranch and Russian IOC member Vitaly Smirnov from the 1970s. Guelfi has admitted channeling $US40 million in illicit payments from a French oil company to associates of the now disgraced former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. Since he was jailed in France a couple of years ago, Guelfi is no longer referred to as a member of the ‘Olympic family’ although he was the driving force behind the bids to stage the summer Olympics in Tashkent or St Petersburg in the hope of hefty commissions. Guelfi admits to flying with Samaranch to Beijing and trading on Olympic connections to secure a meeting with Premier Li Peng to push a business proposition.
“‘When I’m with Samaranch and I request an audience,,, I get it…’ Guelfi is quoted as boasting. ‘We are the masters of the universe'”.
Under the leadership of Pakistan’s Anwar Chowdhry, a longtime associate of Samaranch, the image of boxing has crumbled. Fights at the Olympics and their world championships have been fixed in the interests of the rich powerbrokers in the shadows of the sport. One of the worst examples was the robbing of America’s Roy Jones at the Seoul Games of his gold by bribing the judges. The same thing happened to the Cuban boxer, Juan Hernandez, in Houston, Texas a year ago. In the end the Cubans walked out of the contest.
When legendary, three-time Olympic champion Teofilo Stevenson joined the protest against the corruption in Houston, the AIBA banned him from boxing competitions for two years. This means that one of the greatest Olympic champions is banned from Sydney by a federation, which according to Jennings is “riddled with crooks and mafia”.
Jennings ridicules the announcement that at the Sidney Games, “spy cameras” will video judges as they score bouts. What use is that when the tapes are to be checked by the same AIBA jury that robbed Hernandez of his victory. Jennings has no doubt that the Cubans will again be victimized at Sydney, along with many other talented athletes.
He declares: “The IOC, supreme sports authority has abdicated its responsibility to the athletes and so the civil power must step in if the integrity of these games is to survive.” Jennings calls on Sidney’s police commissioner to dispatch officers to the Darling Harbour Exhibition Center with instructions to watch every Olympic bout and arrests judges suspected of fraud.
“Only the thin blue line of police officers can protect the athletes.”