Bribery charges continue to plague Olympics 

Tommy Gustafsson, the Swedish businessman who spearheaded Stockholm’s failed 2004 Summer Olympic bid, has been informed by that country’s chief prosecutor that he is suspected of bribery.

The news came just before Christmas and just after Juan Antonio Samaranch reminded Toronto and four other 2008 Games bid cities to observe the "no visits — no gifts" rule instituted after the Salt Lake City corruption scandals that broke two years ago.

The Toronto bid team was in Lausanne, Switzerland last month to make its first direct pitch to the IOC executive board. Delegations from Beijing, Istanbul, Osaka and Paris also made their presentations. Each was given 10 minutes to state their case for staging the 2008 Summer Games. They were given a further 15 minutes to brief international media.

The IOC will select the 2008 host city in Moscow in July.

The IOC president doesn't take part in bid city votes but Samaranch is scheduled to visit Toronto on May 24 for a meeting of the Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS), according to the Toronto Summer Games internet site.

It is felt that a Toronto win for 2008 would likely scuttle the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Games.

However, according to BBC Sports, Beijing, which lost by two votes to Sydney in the race for the 2000 Games, is widely considered to be the front-runner for 2008, with Paris and Toronto the main challengers.

The 2008 campaign is the first being conducted since the IOC adopted a package of reforms in response to the vote-buying scandal centred around Salt Lake City’s winning 2002 Winter Games bid.

According to BBC Sports, Samaranch reminded bid cities there is a new era in relations between bid cities and IOC members. "That is very important – no visits, no gifts. It represents the new philosophy of the IOC."

Although the Swedish bid was conducted before the new rules were put in place, the latest news leaves a lingering bad taste.

Before the Gustafsson announcement, two other officials had already been notified of similar suspicions including Stockholm’s bid chairman, Olof Stenhammar. Gustafsson was Stenhammar’s top aide. All have publicly denied the allegations.

The Associated Press reports that top prosecutor Christer van der Kwas opened an inquiry in November last year into an alleged $76,000 transaction between Stenhammar and Gustafsson. The transfer reportedly happened two days before the International Olympic Committee voted in Switzerland in 1997 to hold the 2004 Games in Athens.

Stenhammar’s courier, the third suspect, reportedly took the cash from Stockholm to Lausanne, site of the IOC headquarters.

Van der Kwast has questioned at least 10 people in connection with the transaction.

Stenhammar has reportedly said he was going to use the money for a family vacation in Nepal, but he said he cancelled the trip because he was upset over losing the bid.

The trip was reportedly never booked.

A decision on whether to file formal charges will be made within the next few months.

The Vancouver-Whistler bid team, in the meantime, has taken steps to ensure its push for the 2010 winter Games stays clean. The bid corporation has adopted a code of conduct and last week named an ethics committee. Former B.C. Supreme court judge Stuart Leggat was also appointed to the position of Ethics Commissioner for the bid.

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