Originally created 05/08/99

Inquiry into bid opened

ATLANTA -- The chairman of the congressional investigation into Atlanta's Olympic bid said Friday that he hopes the process was clean, but his subcommittee must see all the records to make sure.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and Tom Bliley, R-Va., chairman of the House Commerce Committee, sent a letter to former Olympics chief Billy Payne on Thursday requesting all 1,400 documents pertaining to the bid.

The documents are at the center of a court fight in Georgia.

"I'd like to think that we're not going to find anything," Mr. Upton said. "That's my hope. But we'll see."

The committee wants to determine if the boxes of records contain evidence of bribery akin to the scandal that has tainted Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

"We want to begin to ascertain whether the regrettable events surrounding the IOC's selection of Salt Lake City were an aberration, or part of a broader pattern or practice associated with other Olympic site selection bids," Mr. Bliley and Mr. Upton said in the letter.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been fighting to open the records. On Wednesday, the Georgia Amateur Athletics Foundation, a private group holding the records, filed suit seeking a ruling that the documents do not fall under Georgia's Open Records Act.

The suit was prompted by Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who said the refusal to make the documents available to the public lends credence to the belief that the GAAF has something to hide.

The athletics foundation, created by Mr. Payne in 1987 to bid for the Olympics, says the documents are the property of a group of private citizens.

But Mr. Baker says the records must be opened because Atlanta's Olympic efforts involved a partnership between government and private interests.

Lee Echols, a spokesman for Olympic organizers, said they will cooperate fully with the subcommittee's request.

"We welcome this inquiry because we have always said we would work closely with any government inquiry about the Atlanta games," he said. "Frankly we think this may be a more thorough and objective forum through which to set the record straight about the Atlanta Games and perhaps keep some of the lawyers and news media at bay."

If the organizers do not comply with the request, the committee could subpoena the records, Mr. Upton said. Some of the documents could be made public if the committee decides it is necessary to hold a hearing on the Olympic bid process, he said.


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