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'Legend' to Boycott Olympics, Likens IOC to Mafia

Associated Press
Wednesday, January 7, 1998

OSLO, Norway — One of the world's best snowboarders calls the Olympic hierarchy smug, pampered and undemocratic.

And now Terje Haakonsen wants no part of the Nagano Games in which snowboarding makes its Olympic debut.

Haakonsen told newspapers Wednesday he will boycott next month's games to protest the conduct of the International Olympic Committee. He has likened the ruling body to an organized crime outfit.

"When I say mafia, I mean what most people see in the word: people who take over control but never let anyone have an inside look at what they are doing," Haakonsen told Sweden's TV4 in December.

Norwegian IOC member Jan Staubo is not particularly impressed by Haakonsen's action, saying it "has no importance to the Olympic idea."

Haakonsen is upset over the lavish treatment accorded IOC members.

"The fact is that the big-wigs ride in limousines and stay in fancy hotels while the athletes live in barracks in the woods," he told the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang last month.

He added: "I'm basically not saying anything more than Vegard Ulvang did before the Olympics in Lillehammer."

Ulvang, Norway's champion Nordic skier, accused the IOC of being dictatorial and said IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch's links to the former regime of Gen. Francisco Franco in Spain were "bad and may not be worthy of a sports movement."

Haakonsen, known as "The Legend," is a three-time half-pipe world champion of the international snowboarding federation. If he sits out the Olympics, some rivals have said a gold medal would be diminished.

Haakonsen said the IOC was wrong to have FIS, the international skiing federation, organize snowboarding as an Olympic event. To qualify for the Olympics, Haakonsen would have to compete in at least one FIS event, which he refuses to do.

This dispute is similar to the one involving beach volleyball before the 1996 Atlanta Games. Some of the world's top beach volleyball players said the Olympic competition should be run by the Association of Volleyball Professionals, which helped make the sport a TV success.

A last-minute compromise was reached and all the top players competed, although the tournament was run by the international volleyball federation.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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