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TI calls for independent body to restore ‘integrity and fair play’ to Olympic bids

Independent monitoring of IOC voting is vital for 2012 Olympics, says Transparency International. TI in discussions to eliminate bribery in 2008 Beijing Games

Allegations that members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) may have flouted strict rules on the selection process for the 2012 Olympic Games "fly in the face of the Olympian ideals of integrity and fair play", said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of Transparency International (TI), today. The claims were made in BBC television's Panorama programme, "Buying the Games", broadcast on 4 August.

"The Athens Olympics are being presented as a return to the Olympian ideals," said Nussbaum. "In this context, and in the light of the scandals that have dogged the Games in the past, it is shocking to see that Olympic votes may still be for sale." TI is the leading international non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting corruption worldwide.

"If the claims aired by the BBC are borne out, this reinforces the urgent need for an independent external agency, including non-governmental representatives, to monitor the IOC's decision-making processes." In addition, said Nussbaum, "it is high time that there was more rigorous scrutiny of the process of bidding for contracts once the venue has been chosen."

TI has already launched discussions with the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games on curbing corruption once the host has been selected. According to TI Programme Officer for South Asia, Liao Ran, after discussions between TI and the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games, "the Beijing Organising Committee has agreed to introduce a code of conduct, including anti-corruption clauses, conflicts of interest rules and guidelines on taking gifts."

TI has proposed an Integrity Pact, an anti-bribery pact where bidders provide a binding assurance that they have not paid nor will they pay any bribes to obtain the contract. Pre-agreed sanctions, including blacklisting, come into force if the undertaking is breached. Liao Ran said: "The budget for the Athens Games amounts to US$12 billion, and we can expect similar sums to be spent on infrastructure construction and other services for the Beijing Games. To ensure that the bidding for such contracts is carried out as cleanly as possible, TI's contact in China, the Anti-Corruption and Governance Research Centre at Tsinghua University, is already in discussions with the Beijing Organising Committee about introducing the TI Integrity Pact into the implementing phases of the construction projects for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008."

According to the Panorama broadcast, almost one-quarter of the IOC's 124 members were open to bribery in return for their vote in the city-selection process for the games in 2012, pitting London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow against each other as potential hosts. Bulgarian IOC member Ivan Slavkov was secretly filmed by the television programme discussing openly with New London Ventures - a fake company set up by Panorama - questions about the "favours" that could sway the voting. Slavkov has denied any wrongdoing.

Vote-for-cash scandals are not new to the Olympics. IOC President Jacques Rogge promised to eliminate corruption following the 1998 Salt Lake City scandal in which 13 Olympic officials were accused of accepting bribes. A series of reforms were introduced following the scandal to crack down on bribery and gift-giving. IOC rules now forbid committee members from being "involved with firms or persons whose activity is inconsistent with the principles set out in the Olympic charter", and an ethics commission was set up to police the IOC.

Andrew Jennings, author of The Great Olympic Swindle, said today: "The IOC's in-house 'reform' of 1999 was a fig-leaf, largely for media consumption. Corruption can be checked only by bringing in an external agency that has the clout to sanction such clear abuses of power. The IOC ethics commission is clearly a smokescreen. Reform must be implemented, and it must be implemented immediately."

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