Sunday, July 22, 2001 New ethics rules promote a squeaky-clean process
By Dan Klepal The Cincinnati Enquirer
Keep the limousines and gifts at home. U.S. Olympic Committee members visiting Cincinnati this week will be all about business — the business of picking an American city capable of hosting the world during the 2012 Olympiad.
The vote-buying scandal in Salt Lake City three years ago has had a dramatic effect on the process of Olympic committee members visiting cities that want to host the Games.
Olympic organizers in Salt Lake spent an estimated $800,000 on gifts for International Olympic Committee board members to sway a handful of swing votes and land the 2002 Winter Games.
Although the U.S. Olympic Committee played no role in the scandal, it was criticized for a lack of oversight that allowed Salt Lake City officials to pay college tuition, give extravagant gifts, hire call girls and pay medical bills for some international board members.
The U.S. committee has given each of the eight U.S. cities that want to host the 2012 games very specific instructions on what can and can't be done during the visit.
In addition to banning limos and gifts for visiting members, the committee will pay for all hotel rooms and meals, with the exception of one working lunch.
“The scandal has made everyone extremely sensitive to the perceptions that might be made,” committee spokesman Mike Moran says. “It can't help but affect the way we do business — in how we visit cities and the way we spend our money.”
Joe Tomain, dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, co-chaired Cincinnati 2012's ethics subcommittee and helped draft an ethics guideline that will be put into play if the Queen City wins the Games.
He says most of those guidelines deal with hiring vendors and contractors that will be used to supply goods and build Olympic venues.
“We want to make sure any of those service goods providers, whether it be telecommunications or building physical facilities, avoid all conflicts of interest,” Mr. Tomain says. “And that those persons involved with the Olympic Committee here in Cincinnati are making decisions independently of any business interests.”
That is the legacy of Salt Lake, says John Lucas, an Olympic historian and professor emeritus at Penn State University.
Mr. Lucas says the winning city will have a local group of “Untouchables” like the incorruptible G-men of the 1920s.
“The men and women on the city's Olympic Committee have to be beyond reproach,” says Mr. Lucas, who has written five books on the Games and has attended 11 Summer Olympics.
“You have to have a group of Cincinnati untouchables. That will make the (International Olympic Committee) folks in Switzerland feel much more comfortable, knowing that no one in Cincinnati can be bought in any way, shape or form.”
The international committee has put in place many reforms since the Salt Lake scandal, most notably that voting board members are no longer allowed to visit bid cities.
“It's a two-way street,” Mr. Lucas says.
But the first step is to convince the U.S. committee that Cincinnati is a capable host to the world. Nick Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012, says the U.S. committee's sensitivity to fancy gifts and free meals makes the whole process much easier.
“We don't have to worry about hotel rooms or competing with other cities to give the most expensive gifts,” Mr. Vehr says. “The good side of what happened is that it puts a premium on objectivity and minimizes subjectivity in the process.”
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