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The return of Olympic bidding scandals: 2016, 2020 Games under investigation

(Kimimasa Mayama/EPA)

Investigators in France have expanded their probe into world track and field’s governing body to include possible corruption in the bidding process for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Guardian’s Owen Gibson reported Tuesday.

Lamine Diack, the Senegalese former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, and his son Papa Massata Diack, the IAAF’s former marketing consultant, are at the center of the probe. At issue is whether the two acted as intermediaries between the cities that bid for the 2016 and 2020 Games and a group of International Olympic Committee members.

“Papa Massata Diack had appeared to arrange for ‘parcels’ to be delivered to six IOC members in 2008 at a time when Qatar was bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games, though it failed to make it beyond the shortlisting stage. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing,” Gibson writes. Those parcels would be delivered to the IOC members via a person Papa Massata Diack described as a “special adviser” in an email. That adviser, according to Gibson, was likely Lamine Diack, who was an IOC member himself from 1999 to 2013.

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French police already have arrested Lamine Diack over allegations that he accepted more than $1 million in bribes to cover up systemic doping by Russian track and field athletes. A footnote in an independent review of the matter by former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound suggested possible corruption in the 2020 Olympic bidding process, as Diack reportedly switched his support from Istanbul to Tokyo after a Japanese sponsor signed a deal with the IAAF.

The IOC instituted sweeping rule changes after the bidding scandals that tarnished the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In 1999, six IOC members were expelled and four resigned after it was determined that Salt Lake Olympic organizers had given them more than $1 million in cash, gifts, trips and scholarships. Candidate cities are no longer allowed to have direct contact with IOC members, and the allegations against the Diacks would seem to suggest that some in the IOC are seeking to circumvent that rule.

Despite the reforms, the Olympic bidding process still is seen as ripe for corruption. In a 2004 investigation into the bidding process for the 2012 London Games, the BBC uncovered agents who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as middlemen between the contending host cities and IOC members. Questions also have been raised about the bidding for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.