The Sniper's Guide to the Bird's Nest
Continued from page 5
KNOCK! Knock! Knock! The Barbarians are at the Gate! Crash! Smash! It’s off its hinges, wood splintering. They’re inside! Coubertin’s taken a mortal blow!
Here comes the Dark Man from Herzogenaurach. He’s got gold for everyone. Over his shoulder is an adidas sports holdall crammed with pills, syringes and bags of blood. They go together, you want gold, you take the magic potions.
Horst Dassler groomed Samaranch through the 1970s and by 1980 had organised enough votes to put the Catalan in power at the presidential election on the eve of the Moscow games. In January that year the Olympic Review carried an article by Dassler promising new money for sport – and by implication the administrators – if they accepted his commercialisation of the games.
Samaranch was elected on the first ballot, Dassler’s ISL company got the marketing contract for the IOC (and also FIFA and athletics) and to keep these forever he set up a sophisticated network using offshore accounts to channel money to officials. Their existence was eventually revealed in a courtroom in Zug in March 2008.
I recall, when I was younger, reading how the wretched of the third world learned to strike a symbolic blow at the Uncle Sam who exploited them. They’d march to the sacred Coca-Cola bottling plant and burn it down. Today the football stadiums in developing countries are garlanded in Coke logos. ‘How can you have a revolution when the enemy have an outpost in your head,’ say the students of hegemony. Coca-Cola brings you football and the sports you love. Sponsoring sport is about more than selling bottles of fizz or obesity burgers that athletes would never touch.
Fourteen years later a Coke official told an Olympic Congress in Paris, ‘Just as sponsors have the responsibility to preserve the integrity of the sport so too you have responsibility and accountability to the sponsor.’ That was vulgar. Now they are called ‘partners.’ They’re sacred.
‘I HAVEN’T read it carefully,’ croaks that familiar, scary German-American growl. What an admission from Henry Kissinger! Henry is the star of the press conference in the Olympic museum in Lausanne in October 1999, the headlining act fronting ‘reforms’ prompted by the Salt Lake cash ‘n’ sex for votes scandal.
One criticism had been the IOC’s avoiding elections and selecting its members. I asked Kissinger why there was no change, why they were still allowed to choose people like themselves. ‘I think an attempt has been made to try and subject each member to some election process,’ he hesitated. ‘I haven't read it carefully, is the word co-opt in?’
I assured him it was. But why was Kissinger here? The partners, panicking, hired grubby spin-doctors Hill & Knowlton to charm the media that the Olympic brand was still a good investment. Kissinger’s company works for many of the brands. The sports reporters were cowed by him. Bingo!
The IOC’s fondness for Terri, from Snow White Escorts, performing striptease in their hotel bedrooms, the extraordinary demands during shopping trips to Utah to be supplied with a violin, a high-price vibrator and Viagra for partying (without drug-testing) together with the serious business of gouging college scholarships and bags of greenbacks had devastated their stock price.
There was another Salt Lake scandal and it was overlooked. Once the bribes had delivered the business the good ole boys of Utah convened behind the Mormon Tabernacle, calling themselves the organising committee for the games. They soon gave out contracts worth $68 million. Around $50 million of that went to businesses controlled by . . . them.
To help shine light into dark Olympic corners I testified to John McCain’s sport oversight committee on Capitol Hill. He hadn’t been told why the Maximum Leader’s right arm was more muscular than his left. American IOC member Anita DeFrantz sitting next to me wouldn’t make eye contact.
Hill & Knowlton, pulling the strings behind Kissinger, produced pages of reforms, they said 5o, enough to swamp the sports reporters. My favourite was merging the Culture and Education Commissions.
OH, NO. There’s Mandela and Tutu. I can’t do this. Anyway, I’ve missed every target. Much better to establish an Olympic truth and reconciliation commission. But before the Committee can be granted amnesty, they have to be investigated and they have to admit their crimes against sport.
Originally published in Lettre International, Berlin, June 2008