Atlanta's Olympic bidders disclosed yesterday that they exceeded the International Olympic Committee gift-giving limitations dozens of times in their quest to host the 1996 Summer Games, giving IOC members what they called "tokens of friendship" such as a $616 Tiffany jewelry box, an $875 bulldog and a $948 carburetor kit.
Six months after insisting they broke no IOC rules during their successful Olympic bid, Atlanta's former Olympic leaders also revealed that they gave $25,000 to an anti-apartheid organization in South Africa, donated a used bus to the city of Lima, Peru, and spent $14,099 to send two African teenagers to an exclusive tennis camp in Florida.
These disclosures came in response to a request by the House of Representatives' Commerce Committee, which is investigating whether Atlanta Olympic officials violated federal fraud and bribery laws during their pursuit of IOC members' votes. The IOC had a gift limitation of $200 from 1988 to 1990, when Atlanta competed against five cities to host the 1996 Games.
"These gifts were not lavish and were plainly not efforts to bribe or unduly influence [the votes of] any IOC member," Billy Payne and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who led the city's Olympic bid, wrote in a 13-page letter to the two U.S. congressmen who are heading the investigation. ". . . Although we occasionally exceeded the IOC's guidelines, our work was always done with honest intent."
Commerce Committee investigators will fly to Atlanta today to examine the contents of many, if not all, of the 1,400 boxes of records that detail how Atlanta wooed IOC members, according to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
"As I looked at this letter [from Payne and Young] for sure there will be some follow-up questions," Upton said yesterday. "We'll get the lay of the land [by examining the records] and hopefully we'll be able to make some decision by the end of next week on how to proceed."
On the disclosure by Atlanta bidders that they spent $14,099 to send two teenagers from the Republic of Congo to a tennis camp in Bradenton, Fla., Upton said: "This one [expense] stood out because I'm a tennis player. I'm sure there are a lot of kids who would like to go to this tennis camp. That's a pretty expensive camp! You know, did they send anybody else? We need to look at this whole thing. You know, we're just scratching the surface."
The Commerce Committee investigation was triggered by revelations this winter that Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics after wooing IOC members with cash and gifts worth millions of dollars. The Georgia Amateur Athletics Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that sponsored Atlanta's bid and owns the city's Olympic records, has pledged to cooperate with the congressional probe.
The GAAF report, given to Commerce Committee investigators on Tuesday and released to the media yesterday, detailed dozens of gifts to IOC members and the countries they represented. Many of the gifts were given directly to IOC members or their families. Others were made -- at the request of IOC members -- to organizations in their countries.
The tennis camp tuition was requested by then-IOC member Jean-Claude Ganga of the Republic of Congo, according to the GAAF's letter to Upton and Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.), who chairs the Commerce Committee.
Ganga also requested -- and received -- $19,294 worth of soccer equipment and uniforms for children in his country and assistance in obtaining a $10,000 stadium scoreboard from the Coca-Cola Foundation, according to the GAAF.
Ganga, who brought three companions on his 1989 trip to Atlanta, was expelled from the IOC this winter after it was revealed he had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and payments from Salt Lake City bidders.
Atlanta's bidding committee also dispensed:
Two gifts of clothing worth $937 to the IOC member from Finland, Pirjo Haeggman, who brought three companions on a visit to Atlanta. Haeggman resigned from the IOC this winter.
A Tiffany jewelry box worth $616 to IOC member Un Yong Kim of South Korea. Kim has been censured by the IOC.
A $940 carburetor kit to Bashir Mohamed Attarabulsi of Libya. Attarabulsi has resigned from the IOC.
A bulldog worth $875 to IOC member Manuel Gonzalez Guerra of Cuba. Guerra is deceased.
A $25,000 donation in 1990 to the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee "to help speed the destruction of apartheid." The committee was seeking to get South Africa into the Olympics after a 30-year absence. South Africa did not have an IOC vote at the time.
$6,605 worth of tuition and living expenses for a swimmer from Mauritius. The IOC member from Mauritius had no involvement in this arrangement, the GAAF said.
All told, the GAAF reported that it made 36 personal gifts to IOC members that exceeded the $200 gift limitation.
"That is a big concern," Upton said. "We in Congress live with a gift ban. It's a pretty easy thing to enforce. And it's pretty easy to live up to. . . . Rules are to be lived by, not to be broken."