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Samaranch Thinks He'll Reform IOC

Samaranch Thinks He'll Reform IOC

By the SkiNet News Desk
posted: 01/01/2000

London Oct.15 (AP by Stephen Wilson)--IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch thinks he can push through reforms that will satisfy congressional critics threatening to impose sanctions against the Olympic body.

``I am doing my best to make sure these recommendations will be approved,'' Samaranch told The Associated Press on Friday. ``I am very confident that the most important recommendations will pass.''

Samaranch spoke a day after he and the International Olympic Committee came under renewed pressure in Washington to stamp out the abuses that have tainted the bidding and selection process for the host city.

Several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the IOC's reform efforts during a hearing of the House Commerce subcommittee.

The hearing was called to address the lavish gift-giving and other excesses surrounding the successful bids by Atlanta and Salt Lake City for the 1996 Summer Olympics and 2002 Winter Games.

Samaranch declined to testify at Thursday's hearing. However, he has agreed to appear before the House panel on Dec. 15, three days after a special IOC session in which the reforms will be put to a vote.

``I think it was a good hearing,'' Samaranch said by telephone from Lausanne, Switzerland. ``The most important thing is that all the people are waiting to see what happens in December and whether we can present to the world some important changes.''

At the hearing, U.S. Olympic Committee President Bill Hybl, a member of the IOC's special reform panel, said there is a ``a little better than a 50 percent chance'' of all the recommendations being adopted.

But Samaranch thinks the chances are much higher. He expects 40 reform proposals to be put before the 100-plus IOC members at December's session in Lausanne. A two-thirds vote is required for approval.

The reform commission is meeting at the end of this month to complete its recommendations. They include term limits for IOC members, an age limit of 70 for new delegates, the appointment of 15 athletes to the IOC and new restrictions on Olympic bidding.

Samaranch reiterated that the IOC has already taken considerable steps toward reform in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal _ purging 10 members, setting up reform and ethics commissions, opening its financial accounts and banning member visits to cities bidding for the 2006 Winter Games.

A number of IOC members have expressed resentment at what they view as political interference by Congress. Samaranch has said the IOC must reform on its own terms and not under pressure from critics, but he maintained a diplomatic stance Friday.

``I don't like to enter into what the Congress are thinking,'' he said. ``I have to take care only of the IOC.''

Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House panel, said Congress will push through legislation to punish the IOC if the reforms are not enacted in December.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a senior Democrat from California, has introduced legislation to cut off American corporate support of the Olympics unless the IOC moves to clean up the selection process.

``I am convinced that if the IOC does not adopt those reforms in December, the Congress is not going to have the patience any longer to leave the IOC to reform itself,'' Waxman said.

Samaranch received endorsements during the hearing from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an outside member of the IOC reform panel, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a key figure in the city's '96 bid.

Samaranch noted on Friday that 12 cities have expressed interest in bidding for the 2008 Summer Games.

``That is the most important thing,'' he said. ``The games are still very important, maybe the most important sporting event in the world.''

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press

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