Originally created 01/27/99

Atlanta Olympic organizers preparing response to bribery probe



ATLANTA -- Atlanta's Olympic organizers scurried Tuesday to tell the IOC if there were improprieties during their winning bid for the 1996 Games.

The International Olympic Committee is investigating a bribery scandal that began last month with Salt Lake City and has since broadened in scope. IOC vice president Dick Pound, who is in charge of the investigation, wants to look at the bids of all cities dating back to the 1996 Games at an emergency meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 17-18.

"It's kind of, once again, `rack your brain, rack your brain,"' former Atlanta Olympics chief Billy Payne said. "We're not getting together in a room or anything, but we're all glad for the chance to respond in this formal way."

Payne and others involved with the Atlanta bid have continuously denied any wrongdoing.

"I think our bid would stand a pretty rigorous scrutiny by the rules that existed at time," said A.D. Frazier, former chief operating officer of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. "Not only that, but we had six years from 1991 of clean audits by Price-Waterhouse. And the AOC (the Atlanta Olympic Committee, which handled the bid) had a clean audit."

Officials in Salt Lake gave cash, college scholarships, free medical care and lavish gifts to IOC members and their families while winning the 2002 Winter Games, an IOC inquiry found.

Olympic officials in Sydney, host of the 2000 Summer Games, said they offered $70,000 in inducements to two African IOC members on the eve of their vote.

Six IOC members have already been expelled over the Salt Lake scandal, and another three have resigned.

Neither Atlanta officials nor the U.S. Olympic Committee have received an official request for information about the Atlanta Games, even though a draft letter was circulated at the IOC meeting last weekend.

"I would expect the questions would be fairly simple, such as were there members who made multiple visits, asked anything out of the ordinary, or did we give gifts out of ordinary," said ACOG's former communications chief, Dick Yarborough. "We're doing this through institutional knowledge and talking it out amongst ourselves."

The request for Atlanta information is supposed to go through the USOC, but executive director Dick Schultz said Atlanta probably would be asked to provide answers directly.

"They're not trying to make Atlanta look bad," Schultz said. "This is more of an internal thing inside the IOC."

On Tuesday, the state radio station in the Republic of Congo reported that former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young traveled to Brazzaville in 1984 to promote Atlanta's bid. According to the report, Young promised to build a sports stadium in the capital in exchange for the country's support for Atlanta's campaign to host the Olympics.

The republic's IOC representative, Jean-Claude Ganga, was one of those expelled. Pound's report said Ganga received more than $216,000.

Payne said he didn't even get the idea to pursue the Olympics until 1987, three years after the alleged promise by Young. The USOC chose Atlanta as the American bid city in 1988 and the IOC picked the Georgia capital in 1990.

"Mr. Young may have been in the Congo in 1984 ... but that report is clearly false," Young spokesman Lee Echols said. "Andy Young never made promises to build facilities nor to provide aid to build facilities in relation to the Atlanta Olympic bid."