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The Olympics’ Long History of Bid Corruption

April 16, 2018
The Olympics’ Long History of Bid Corruption

The City of Calgary has spent approximately $6 million on an Olympic bid so far. Unless things change, it’s quite likely that another $24 million will be spent pursuing an Olympic bid (including provincial and federal money).

Now consider this. Since the City of Calgary began exploring a bid (2016), multiple stories about allegations of bribery have emerged concerning the selection of the Pyeongchang Olympics (2018), Rio de Janeiro Olympics (2016) and Tokyo Olympics (2020).

If we go back even further, we find even more stories about Olympic officials being bribed to vote for certain countries. From paying for an Olympic official’s child’s tuition to plastic surgery and prostitutes – allegations and evidence of Olympic bribes and outlandish gifts are abundant.

Proponents need to consider this: Calgary could spend $30 million and have the “best” Olympic bid in the world, but we could still lose if another country bribes Olympic officials to vote for their bid.

Needless to say, the bid process is still fundamentally broken.

  

STORIES SINCE CALGARY BEGAN EXPLORING A BID:

  • Tokyo (2020): The Guardian reported that the Tokyo Olympic bid team transferred over $2.6 million to the son of an IOC member just prior to and after Tokyo was selected. Click here or here to read more. 
  • Pyeongchang (2018): According to Reuters, a South Korean news outlet (Broadcaster SBS) has reported that the government is investigating a corruption scandal involving South Korea’s former President, tech giant Samsung and efforts to secure votes for Pyeongchang’s Olympic bid – click here.
  • Rio de Janeiro (2016): Brazil’s former Olympic head was arrested amid claims he was a key figure in a bribery scandal to secure the Olympics for Rio. He allegedly had 16 gold bars (worth over $2 million) in a Swiss bank account – click here.

 

STORIES FROM PREVIOUS BID PROCESSES:

  • London (2012): According to The Guardian, London had to “withdraw a £15 million package of financial 'incentives' which the International Olympic Committee claimed came dangerously close to bribery.” During that same bid process, a Bulgarian IOC member was banned after he told undercover BBC reporters that he might be willing to take a bribe to vote for London.
  • Salt Lake City (2002): The gifts and bribes given to IOC members by the Salt Lake City team are staggering. Consider this quote from the American Journal Review“Salt Lake Olympic officials gave IOC members free credit cards when they came to town, spent $19,991 to take three IOC couples to the 1995 Super Bowl, loaned one member $30,000 to help a friend and paid for plastic surgery to remove the bags under the eyes of an IOC member--and that's just a taste of the largesse Salt Lake doled out.”

And consider this quote from Vanity Fair:

  • “The Salt Lake City 2002 committee bought a violin for one member, gave $320,000 to another, and obtained immense amounts of Viagra for two more. Salt Lake City also paid $17,000 worth of tuition bills at the University of Southern Mississippi for the son of a Sudanese general, Zein El Abdin M.A. Abdel Gadir, an I.O.C. member, and sent a $1,000-a-month stipend to a bank account in London for the general’s daughter—who does not exist but whose name appears to be an abbreviation of the general’s own.” 
  • Sydney (2000): Here’s what the BBC noted about Sydney's Olympic bid –The head of the independent inquiry, Mr Tom Sheridan, says Sydney might not have won the bid if hospitality and red carpet treatment given to IOC delegates had been less extravagant. According to his report, members of the Sydney Olympic Committee and the IOC were in "technical breach" of the rules…Some of the international delegates' trips to Sydney were described as holidays in five-star hotels at popular resorts.”
  • Nagano (1998): The Washington Post reported that 10 boxes with information on Nagano’s bid expenses were burned. The Post noted, “Yamaguchi, a key official in Nagano's Olympic bid committee, said the boxes contained records showing how Nagano paid first-class airfare for 62 International Olympic Committee members and many of their companions to visit Japan, how they put them up in fine hotels in Tokyo, Nagano and Kyoto, wined and dined them, entertained them with geishas, flew them around in helicopters.
  • A story in the Independent noted, “The assemblyman, who has served on Olympic delegations, yesterday told The Independent: "If you bid for the Olympic Games, people know that it takes money and maybe bribes." He said: "If you're in that position, and you really want the Games, you have no choice. The IOC members were such greedy extortionists we couldn't but do as they asked."
  • Atlanta (1996): Vanity Fair noted this about the Atlanta bid, “The Atlanta 1996 committee doled out invitations to the Oscars, “free” shopping sprees, and lavish vacations by chartered jet for members.
  • Barcelona (1992): While I didn’t see any stories about Barcelona using unethical tactics to win their bid, Vanity Fair did note this about that bid process, “Repeatedly, I.O.C. members were found to be accepting bribes from cities wanting to host the Olympic Games. Amsterdam’s bid committee for the 1992 Games allegedly procured prostitutes for two I.O.C. members.”

 

I should note that I don’t believe this list is exhaustive. I compiled the list after spending a couple hours Googling stories about “Olympics” and “bribery.” My gut is telling me there are actually more stories out there.

But perhaps the most interesting story was this one, a piece by TheConversation.com that discusses how bribes have a long history with the Olympic Games – going back well over 2,000 years! Click here to read about an athlete paying an official to tamper with the chariot wheels of an opponent.

Perhaps the most important point about all these stories is this – if an Olympic bid goes ahead, and a “Bidco” non-profit is established, taxpayers would have no idea how its funds are spent. That’s because Bidco, and a subsequent organization to manage the $5 billion Olympic budget, would be exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

As a result, taxpayer groups, the media and the public would be largely stonewalled when trying to obtain documents related to the Olympics. (This story describes how the same problem occurred in Vancouver)

What could possibly go wrong?

  

P.S. – I realize I didn’t highlight stories about judges, politicians and doping staff being bribed … that’s a whole other matter.

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