Members of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Mitchell Commission said yesterday they were pleased that the International Olympic Committee had enacted, or was considering, reforms proposed by the commission regarding site selection, gifts to IOC members and disclosure of IOC finances.
"It seems they're getting real about reform," said Kenneth Duberstein, vice chairman of the commission and former White House chief of staff in the Reagan Administration. "They've indicated they are studying [the USOC recommendations] further, which is much more positive than previous indications."
The USOC's Special Committee on Bid Oversight, known as the Mitchell Commission for its chairman, former senator George Mitchell, received an 11-point response from the IOC to the commission's recommendations. The commission was formed following disclosures earlier last year that IOC members had been given gifts, cash and free transportation by representatives of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee during its successful campaign to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Some changes already have occurred. The IOC has restricted the visits members can make before voting on bid cities. In June, the IOC further restricted the gifts members can accept, though the scandal revealed that the old $200 limit was ignored. On Monday, the IOC 2000 Commission working group recommended limiting bid cities to those that pass certain criteria.
Commission member Jeff Benz, a San Francisco attorney, called the IOC paper "a positive step." Benz, who is an ice skater, added, "They are seriously considering holding themselves to generally accepted international standards for combating bribery."
Duberstein and Mitchell discussed the reforms earlier this month in London with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and Director General Francoise Carrard. The IOC report agrees with several of the Mitchell Commission's recommendations that the process by which host cities are selected be tightened and made more accountable.
But in the response, the IOC said it does not assume all responsibility for policing the actions of bid cities such as Salt Lake City, whose pattern of abuses shook the entire Olympic movement: "One should never forget that [national Olympic committees] bear the highest responsibility to closely monitor the behaviour and attitude of their candidate cities."
The IOC paper also takes exception with the Mitchell Commission proposal that national Olympic committee members be prohibited from serving on the IOC or with host city organizing committees at the same time. "An experience of 105 years shows that this would not be a good solution," the IOC paper said.