Originally created 08/07/99

Source: Atlanta Olympic documents point to scholarships, trips



ATLANTA -- Olympic documents point toward possible scholarship and travel abuses during Atlanta's bid for the 1996 Summer Games, The Associated Press learned Friday.

Sources familiar with a congressional committee's investigation of the city's bid said the documents contained "several references to scholarships" for relatives of International Olympic Committee members and non-Olympic travel for some members.

According to the sources, the documents mention gifts worth well over $1,000 that weren't previously acknowledged by the local organizers. The sources said many gifts involved corporations, and therefore did not turn up on the ledgers of the Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation or the Atlanta Organizing Committee.

For months, Atlanta organizers said they may have bent some IOC regulations, but never took part in outright vote-buying on the scale that occurred in Salt Lake City. Organizers there gave cash, college scholarships and other gifts to IOC members and their families to win the 2002 Winter Games.

The sources, who would not give specific details of the Atlanta evidence, spoke on condition of anonymity.

The documents are filled with possible violations not previously disclosed, one of the sources said. The sources said references to scholarships went well beyond previously disclosed memos from Atlanta Olympics chief Billy Payne, who said the memos contained ideas that were never acted upon.

The documents are included in eight boxes that were not made public when Atlanta Olympic officials opened 6,500 boxes of records pertaining to their bid and organizing the games.

In June, Atlanta organizers filed a report to the House Commerce Committee outlining 38 violations of the IOC's $200 limit on gifts and some travel violations. On Thursday, the House committee, saying the report had not been "totally accurate or complete," gave them a chance to revise it.

Former Attorney General Griffin Bell, a partner in the law firm representing the Olympic organizers, asked for the opportunity to change the report. A spokeswoman at Bell's office said he would not comment on the investigation.

The sources would not specify which colleges or IOC members were involved or how many offers were made. They also would not say where the IOC members apparently traveled to, saying only that most of the destinations were within the United States and apparently not Olympic-related.

A spokesman for Payne and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who co-signed the original report to Congress as chairs of the GAAF, said they were withholding comment until "a supplemental report was prepared."

"We're not going to speculate about documents we don't know whoever is talking about until the Commerce Committee has had a chance to review our response to their questions," Lee Echols said.

The committee opened its investigation earlier this year after the Salt Lake scandal broke.

Congressional investigators would not comment other than to say they were trying to clear up discrepancies in what they found and what was previously reported by Atlanta organizers.

On Thursday, Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., said investigators were concerned about the accuracy of the first report after reviewing 38 boxes of documents.

The documents under review include eight boxes Atlanta officials are trying to keep private, arguing that GAAF -- which put on the bid -- was a private entity and not covered by the state Open Records Act. Another 6,500 boxes have been released to the public, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and state Attorney General Thurbert Baker have sued to see all the records.

A public hearing on possible corruption in the Olympic bidding process is expected to be held in September in Washington.