Originally created 01/27/99

IOC perks included police helicopter rides



TOKYO -- IOC members visiting Nagano received free rides on police helicopters during the city's winning bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Nagano police official Minoru Kono told The Associated Press on Tuesday the rides were offered at the request of Nagano Prefecture (state), although he would not say how many rides were given.

In recent weeks, Nagano officials have disclosed how some IOC officials were wooed during the city's bid, including all-expenses-paid trips to Kyoto, a tourist spot 150 miles from Nagano.

Some IOC officials were also entertained by geisha, and IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch received an expensive painting and Japanese sword.

Japanese Olympic Committee executive board member Chiharu Igaya defended the lavish entertainment as "normal."

"We talk about excessive entertainment, but the question is excessive compared to what?" Igaya, who is also an IOC executive board member, said Tuesday. "What was offered was definitely not excessive. It was normal. In business, entertainment is far more extravagant."

On Monday, Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada, one of the top officials of the bidding committee, acknowledged "excesses" in his city's 1989-1991 bid.

Nagano bid officials have said they spent about $18,000 on each of the 62 visiting IOC officials, including air fare as well as fancy wining and dining.

Also Tuesday, a group of Nagano residents filed a civil lawsuit demanding that the state and city of Nagano, as well as two other Nagano towns that were the sites for the 1998 Games, return some $7 million in taxpayer money that allegedly went toward the bid.

"It is obvious that the money was used unlawfully," Kaoru Iwata, the group's leader, said by telephone from Nagano. "The presents, the geishas, the first-class airfare -- we want all that money back. It's an embarrassment for Nagano."

Nagano Gov. Goro Yoshimura declined comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.

The Japanese Olympic Committee said it is preparing to set up a panel to investigate Nagano's bid, as soon as it receives an inquiry from the IOC. The IOC has said it will investigate the bid of recent host cities, going back to the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Igaya, a silver medalist in the slalom in the 1956 Winter Olympics, was not sure whether the investigation would show Nagano's bid was clean.

"I have no idea. I know there is a rumor, but now the JOC is going to investigate," he said. "So until they come up with their report, I can't say."

The fact that Nagano's bidding expense records are missing also could be a problem, Igaya said, because the papers could have provided an "opportunity to prove that everything was clean."

A bid official said recently he had the books burned in 1992.