2002 Winter Olympic bid scandal

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The 2002 Olympic Winter Games bid scandal was a scandal involving allegations of bribery used to win the rights to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. Prior to its successful bid in 1995, the city had attempted four times to secure the games, failing each time. In 1998 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were accused of taking gifts from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) during the bidding process. The allegations resulted in the expulsion of several IOC members, and the adoption of new IOC rules. Although nothing strictly illegal had been done, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious. Soon four independent investigations were underway: by the IOC, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the SLOC, and the United States Department of Justice. Both Welch and Johnson resigned their posts as the head of the SLOC. Many others soon followed. The Department of Justice filed fifteen charges of bribery and fraud. [1] Investigations were also launched into prior bidding process by other cities, finding that members of the IOC received gifts during the bidding process for both the 1998 Winter Olympics and 2000 Summer Olympics.[2]

Winning bid[edit]

Ogden-born lawyer Tom Welch and a Utah Economic Development Professional David Johnson were in charge of the Salt Lake Bid Committee. From 1986 through 1995, they worked in support for Salt Lake City's bid in Europe, Latin America, and Africa meeting with the International Olympic Committee Members and International Sport organizations.

Despite their efforts, the 1998 Games went to Nagano, Japan, in a 46-to-42 vote. Many felt the reason was that the US had recently been awarded the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Others, including Welch, believed it was because Nagano had better wined and dined the officials.[3] A Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee member complained about competing with the Japanese bid committee for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games: "We were giving out saltwater taffy and cowboy hats, and they were giving out computers. IOC members who came to inspect Nagano were put up in ritzy hot spring resorts, where they washed down expensive sushi with sake poured by kimono-clad geisha. They went home laden with souvenir gifts and expensive paintings." The Nagano Olympic bid committee had spent approximately $14 million to entertain the 62 International Olympic Committee members and many of their companions. The precise figures are unknown since Nagano, after the IOC asked that the entertainment expenditures not be made public, destroyed the financial records.[4][5] The Melbourne bid committee for the 1996 Summer Olympics discovered the quid pro quo expectations of IOC delegates when they received requests from six African IOC delegates for new cars and sexual favors from local brothels.[6] The requests were denied and the 1996 Summer Olympics went to Atlanta.

More than $16 Million was spent on Utah's Olympic bidding. A priority for bidders was bringing each Member of the International Olympic Committee to Salt Lake City. More than 70 of the 100 members of the International Olympic Committee personally visited Salt Lake at Bid Committee expense. The high of costs of bidding was related to bringing members of the International Olympic Committee to Salt Lake City to see the venues proposed to be used for the Games. Community Leaders were 100% behind the bid. Opportunities were created by Spencer Eccles, Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee Executive Board Member, for IOC family members to be employed at First Security Corporation Bank, Jim Jardine, Legal Advisor to the Bid Committee, assisted IOC Member relatives to be admitted at the University of Utah and Intermountain Health Care made medical facilities and treatment available to IOC Members during their visits.

Jon Huntsman, a committee leader, hosted Juan Antonio Samaranch at his lavish Park City home and together with Tom Welch presented President Samaranch with Commemorative Browning Pistol.

In June 1995, 50,000 people gathered outside the Salt Lake City Mayor's office to receive the result of the final announcement.


Access to budget documents was routinely denied, Salt Lake City reporters say. In April 1998, the board attempted to safeguard its aura of secrecy by amending its bylaws to stipulate that any member providing the press with confidential information could be dismissed.

Frank Joklik was president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee until he resigned in January. The former head of Kennecott Copper Corp. was not accustomed to being subjected to a badgering, inquiring press. When the fortnightly Salt Lake Observer sat down with Joklik in the summer of 1998 for a lengthy interview about the Olympics, he became angry when the questioning turned to the $1.45 billion budget for the 2002 Games, the paper reported. "We'd been pushing him about the budget, and he got real testy," says Brooke Adams, the Observer's editor.

The scandal broke on November 24, 1998, when a report came out showing a letter directed to a child of an IOC member indicating the SLOC was paying the child's tuition. Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler, head of the coordination committee overseeing the organization of the 2002 games, made the accusation that a group of members of the IOC had taken bribes since the start of the bidding process in 1990 for the 1996 Olympic games. Soon, four independent investigations were underway, by the IOC, the USOC, the SLOC, and the United States Department of Justice.[7]

Before any of the investigations could even get under way, both Welch and Johnson resigned their posts as the head of the SLOC. Many others soon followed. The Department of Justice filed charges against the two: fifteen charges of bribery and fraud. Johnson and Welch were eventually acquitted of all criminal charges in December 2003.[1]

As part of the investigation, the IOC recommended expelling six IOC members, while continuing the investigation on several others. The six members were Agustin Arroyo of Ecuador, Zein El Abdin Ahmed Abdel Gadir of Sudan, Jean-Claude Ganga of the Republic of Congo, Lamine Keita of Mali, Charles Mukora of Kenya, Sergio Santander Fantini of Chile, and David Sikhulumi Sibandze of Swaziland, though Sibandze resigned during the investigation. Each person was accused of receiving money from the SLOC, either in direct payments, land purchase agreements, tuition assistance, political campaign donations or charitable donations for a local cause.[8]

Ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten were sanctioned.[9] This was the first expulsion or sanction for corruption in the more than a century the IOC had existed. Although nothing strictly illegal had been done, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious. Stricter rules were adopted for future bids, and ceilings were put into place as to how much IOC members could accept from bid cities. Additionally, new term and age limits were put into place for IOC membership, and fifteen former Olympic athletes were added to the committee.

In 2006, a report ordered by the Nagano region's governor said the Japanese city provided millions of dollars in an "illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality" to IOC members, including US$4.4 million spent on entertainment alone.[10]


Bain Capital founder and CEO Mitt Romney (who eventually went on to become Governor of Massachusetts) was brought in to head the SLOC.[11] Romney aided in reorganizing the committee, helped to begin fixing the budget, which at the time was US$379 million short, and renewed sponsor enthusiasm.[12] This was achieved in part through successful lobbying for unprecedented levels of federal government support – over $1.3 billion, more than twice that for the 1996 Atlanta games – to pay for infrastructure improvements.[13]

Bid history[edit]

Early bid attempts
Game Event
1932 Winter Olympics In 1929, only five years after the first games in Chamonix, France, Salt Lake City attempted for the first time to bid for the Winter Olympics. The Utah Ski Club tried to procure the 1932 Games for Salt Lake, but they went to Lake Placid, New York instead. Due to early Olympic rules (which have since changed), Salt Lake could not bid for the 1936 Games, since the summer games host (Germany) had rights to the winter games.
1972 Winter Olympics State and city officials got the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) endorsement, but they lost the bid to Sapporo, Japan.
1976 Winter Olympics The USOC picked Denver, Colorado, over Salt Lake City to represent the United States in bidding. Denver won the bid, but taxpayers voted against funding the games and made them withdraw. Salt Lake put itself forward as a candidate, but in the fallout, the games were awarded to Innsbruck, Austria, which had recently hosted in 1964.
1992 Winter Olympics Salt Lake City did not try to bid again until 1985 for the 1992 Games, but the USOC went with Anchorage, Alaska. After Anchorage lost both bids for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Games, Salt Lake was back in the running for the 2002 Games.



  1. ^ a b Lex Hemphill (6 December 2003). "Acquittals End Bid Scandal That Dogged Winter Games". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  2. ^ Mallon, Dr. Bill (2000). "The Olympic Bribery Scandal" (PDF). The Journal of Olympic History. International Society of Olympic Historians. 8 (2): 11–27. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  3. ^ Gorrell, Mike (22 April 2010). "Juan Antonio Samaranch remembered for Salt Lake City's Olympics and scandal". Salt Lake Tribune.
  4. ^ Jordan, Mary; Sullivan, Kevin (21 January 1999), "Nagano Burned Documents Tracing '98 Olympics Bid", Washington Post, pp. A1, retrieved 20 August 2016
  5. ^ Macintyre, Donald (1 February 1999). "Japan's Sullied Bid". Time Magazine. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  6. ^ Abrahamson, Alan (21 January 1999). "Scandal Heats Up Globally". LA Times.
  7. ^ "An Olympian Scandal". American Journalism Review. April 1999. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Olympic bribery scandal: The six IOC members recommended for expulsion". The Guardian. 25 January 1999. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Samaranch reflects on bid scandal with regret". Salt Lake Deseret News. 19 May 2001. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  10. ^ illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality Archived 15 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Romney hired to lead Salt Lake Olympic organizing committee". CNN. 11 February 1999. Retrieved 7 November 2007.[dead link]
  12. ^ Johnson, Kirk (19 September 2007). "In Olympics Success, Romney Found New Edge". New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  13. ^ "GAO Report B-282746 GAO/GGD-00-183n". 8 September 2000.


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