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Friday, Jan. 29, 1999

Nagano bribe suspicions spoiling Osaka's Games plan


Staff writer

OSAKA — As the International Olympic Committee extends its investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption during Nagano's bid for the 1998 Winter Games, Osaka officials wonder what the effect will be on their bid for the 2008 Summer Games.

For in addition to the disappointment over the timing of the scandal, they had apparently hoped to use some of the basic strategies of the "Nagano Plan" to win the Olympics. "The IOC scandal has left Olympic supporters in City Hall and the Kansai Economic Federation upset because it messed up their promotional plans, which were, to a large extent, based on Nagano's plans. It will be a lot harder, if not impossible, to lavish gifts on IOC officials now," said one senior economic official, who insisted his name not be used, who was directly involved in Osaka's Olympic bid several years ago.

While city officials denied they spoke to Nagano Olympic officials about how to get around IOC regulations on entertainment, they did receive some direct advice on this matter late last year from a higher authority. At a gathering of Osaka Olympic supporters, IOC Executive Board member Chiharu Igaya said in order to win the Games, it was necessary to "take care" of IOC members and their families.

But now that changes in the Olympic bidding process — including leaving the selection of the host city to a 14-member committee plus the IOC president (who would not vote) — have been proposed, the days when cities had to entertain 50 or 60 IOC members appear to be over. How the new selection process will work is to be determined at an IOC meeting in mid-March. "One thing is for sure, though, Osaka will face allegations of bribery if it tries to spend lavishly like Nagano did," the official said.

To date, Osaka says it has spent a total of 43,000 yen on small gifts for IOC President Juan Samaranch, presented during several meetings between him and city officials. An additional 10,000 yen was spent by Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Yasuo Shingu, who also met Samaranch. The value of each gift was under the $150 limit set by the IOC.

Mayor Takafumi Isomura and other city officials have publicly welcomed the IOC's investigation, saying it will level the playing field. However, those opposed to the Olympics say that even if Osaka follows the rules, the reputation of the JOC must also be cleared. "The Japan Olympic Committee knew about the lavish spending and the gifts given to IOC officials and their families during Nagano's bid," said Kazuhito Konishi, a representative of the Osaka Needs No Olympics Union. "If the IOC investigates properly, it will discover that the JOC must share the blame. There could be a backlash against the JOC, and thus Osaka, when it comes time for the IOC to vote for 2008," he said.



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