A cast of characters ranging from esteemed policy makers to beleaguered Olympic officials will assemble on Capitol Hill today for a congressional hearing into Atlanta's controversial bid for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who joined the International Olympic Committee's recently appointed reform committee, is scheduled to testify. So is Billy Payne, who directed the operations of the Atlanta Olympics.

In launching the probe into the awarding of the Olympic Games, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, has said officials associated with both the Atlanta Olympic bid and Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Olympics were prepared to stop at nothing to win the favor of IOC members.

"The discovery period is over," Upton said yesterday. "We have caught both Salt Lake City and Atlanta red-handed. We were hoping Salt Lake City was an aberration and it wasn't."

Upton said his committee is focusing on the IOC reforms being discussed and whether they can prevent abuses.

IOC Director General Francois Carrard, the organization's No. 2 official, made the trip from Lausanne, Switzerland. IOC Vice President Anita DeFrantz and IOC member James Easton of the United States, who were questioned during congressional hearings on the IOC last spring by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will also represent the IOC. Robert Helmick, a critic of the IOC who stepped down as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee over conflict-of-interest allegations in 1991, also is scheduled to attend.

The other panel members include former attorney general Griffin Bell, who compiled a report of alleged abuses by Atlanta Games officials during the campaign for the '96 Games; former senator Howard Baker, who also has been active in IOC reform efforts; and former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, a member of an ethics panel that produced a comprehensive report on the IOC in March.

IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch declined a summons from Upton, saying he didn't have time to attend the hearing because he was too busy instituting reforms. Samaranch, however, promised to make himself available after the IOC approves reform measures in December.

Despite recent revelations of excesses lavished on IOC members by Atlanta bid officials, the Atlanta bid for the '96 Games has not been scrutinized by federal law enforcement officials. The Justice Department, however, is investigating Salt Lake City's 2002 bid.

That probe has resulted in two indictments so far. Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled because of their part in the scandal that erupted last winter.

Today's hearing is the first of two in rapid succession that are likely to make things uncomfortable for the IOC, which has been desperately trying to promote a spirit of change and reform. Next Wednesday, McCain will preside over a hearing on drugs in Olympic competition.

Nine-time Olympic gold medal winner Carl Lewis and star marathoner Frank Shorter--both of whom have criticized the Olympic movement's anti-doping efforts--will testify before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. U.S. drug policy director Barry McCaffrey, who has been a harsh critic of IOC attempts to reform the drug-testing system, also will appear, along with IOC Vice President Richard Pound and U.S. Olympic Committee President Bill Hybl.