Going for the (Taxpayers') Gold: The Olympic Games have produced a gold rush of federal subsidies -- and some of the nation's wealthiest corporate leaders are among the biggest winners. (Olympics).
"Our nation is in prayer," intoned Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), insisting that the torch has become "a symbol of the heroes of our community, those who lost their lives and their loved ones." But Romney, like many others, sees the Olympic flame as the emblem of a larger ideal that "binds each of us to the family of mankind." Billy Payne, president of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, praised the torch's symbolism even more effusively than Romney: "This precious, magical flame can illuminate us all with its hope of a brighter future. In its light, you can see the promise of a world united, not divided."
Taken at face value the Olympics seem to embody the vision expressed by 19th-century British political leader Richard Cobden: "Peace will come to this world when her peoples have as much as possible to do with each other, their governments the least possible." Unfortunately, the U.S. Olympic movement has fallen prey to government intervention, a fact usefully illustrated by the estimated taxpayer price tag of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics -- $1.3 billion and rising, according to a General Accounting Office report.
Following a lengthy investigation of federal subsidies to the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, the December 10, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated reported that the estimated total is more than one and a half times the amount "spent by lawmakers to support all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904--combined. In inflation-adjusted dollars." SLOC President Romney acknowledges the dominant role played by federal subsidies in the Winter Olympics: "We couldn't have done it without them. These are America's Games."
While the Games may belong, in some ethereal sense, to America, only a handful of well-connected political and corporate elites will enjoy the tangible benefits produced by the mammoth federal subsidies. Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, using an increasingly popular euphemism, called the Utah Winter Games "a public-private partnership." A more accurate description would be corporate socialism -- a variant of the economic formula pioneered in Mussolini's Fascist Italy. Through government intervention, investments are subsidized, risks and losses are socialized, and profits are privatized. At the center of this process is the so-called "Olympic Family," led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- a body whose arrogance and corruption are truly Olympian in scale.
The "Olympic Family"
In December 1998, the IOC commemorated the 50th anniversary of the UN's so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Speaking on that occasion, IOC member Judge Mbaye declared: "Sport is both an individual and collective right, the foundation of which is the same as that of human rights, namely humanism."
Like those who work on behalf of the United Nations -- the world's other great venture in globalist humanism -- the 116-member IOC depicts itself as a group of international civil servants working selflessly on behalf of noble ideals. Like the UN, the IOC largely depends on American generosity to survive. In his book The Great Olympic Swindle, British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings points out that "more than half of the IOC's budget comes from U.S. tax breaks, American television companies and sponsors." And like the UN, the IOC exemplifies a "culture of corruption": IOC members have used their position to extract money, gifts, and other favors from civic officials desperate to win the Games for their cities. The seamy underside of the Olympic movement was brought to public attention in 1997 when it was revealed that the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) had lavished bribes and other inducements upon JOG members prior to winning the 2002 Games.
During a 1991 meeting in Birmingham, England, the IOC had selected Nagano, Japan, over Salt Lake City by a maddeningly small margin. Just prior to the vote, the Japanese Olympic delegation announced a $27 million donation to build a museum in Switzerland named after IOC President Juan Samaranch. Together with the numerous petty bribes offered to IOC members in Birmingham, this colossal bribe apparently put Nagano over the top -- and taught Salt Lake City's Olympic Bid Committee valuable lessons about the way Olympic business is done.
In 1989, Utah voters approved a $60 million Olympic referendum. The U.S. Olympic Committee had the power to nominate a U.S. city to host the Games and had made its selection of Salt Lake City contingent upon passage of a tax referendum to build Olympic-caliber facilities, which would only be used if the IOC chose Salt Lake City. After Salt Lake lost to Nagano at the 1991 IOC meeting, then-Utah Governor Norman Bangerter told the state's taxpayers that bidding for the Games was "at best a crap shoot" -- albeit one in which the taxpayers put up the stakes. Finding that the game was rigged, Utah's Olympic boosters resolved to improve their odds.
The Utah Olympic Bid Committee was headed by businessmen Tom Welch and Dave Johnson. During a 1989 meeting with Samaranch, the IOC president advised Welch and Johnson that they should "become personally acquainted with as many IOC members as possible and to become part of the 'Olympic Family,'" explained a 1999 report from SLOC's Board of Ethics. "It quickly became clear that being a part of the Olympic Family put strong demands on [Utah's] hospitality, as some TOG members expected to be treated on a lavish scale that included first class airfare, the finest hotels, meals, gifts, and entertainment, all provided at the bid city's expense."
Between 1991 and 1995, notes Andrew Jennings, "the JOG sent raiding parties to Utah" in pursuit of bribes -- free medical care, "scholarships" and jobs for family members, various gifts, and envelopes full of cash. Congolese IOC member Jean-Claude Ganga, a former ambassador to Communist China who became "the boss of all Africa's national Olympic committees," was the "clear winner of the IOC in-house competition to see who could squeeze the most from the Utah boys," comments Jennings. "Jean-Claude's final total was well in excess of $250,000.... While in town, and never, it seemed, at his own expense, Jean-Claude would ask bid staff to walk envelopes of cash to his bank." One such envelope reportedly contained ten thousand dollars in $100 bills.
Welch and Johnson also retained the services of two "agents" -- Mahmoud ElFamawani, who worked with Egypt's Olympic volleyball team, and "consultant" Muttaleb Ahmad, the Kuwaiti-based director-general of the Olympic Council of Asia. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, El-Farnawani testified that he "signed a contract with Salt Lake City and assured [it] of all the Arab votes" on the IOC He described the Olympic bidding process as "a kind of war, and you have to have all the weapons you can to win. I was just one weapon."
Muttaleb's "consulting" advice to the Salt Lake Bid Committee was simple, notes Jennings: "pay more money. And [the Utah Bid Committee] did -- to his friends. One was General Zein Gadir, the JOG's man in Sudan, a noted drunk." Thousands of dollars were sent to Gadir's son Zuhair, who was going to school in Mississippi; thousands more were sent to an account number in a London bank account on behalf of Zema Gadir -- a nonexistent daughter.
"The trouble with bribery," notes Jennings, "is that once you've developed a taste for it, more of the same is never enough. Appetites grow if you feed them, and the TOG had gorged and gorged again. The appetites that hit Salt Lake would be truly voracious." In 1995, the IOC awarded Utah the Winter Games -- but only after the Bid Committee had led out more than one million dollars in bribes to IOC members. Federal prosecutors filed bribery, fraud, and conspiracy charges against Welch and Johnson, but the case ground to a halt in August 2001 when a U.S. District Judge dismissed the most serious charges.
The Real Scandal
The seriousness of the Bid Committee scandal notwithstanding, the most outrageous actions were committed in Washington, D.C., rather than Salt Lake City. Once the Games were awarded to Salt Lake City, Utah's Republican congressional delegation, led by Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett, had a ready-made rationale to lavish subsidies on their state.
Sports Illustrated summarizes the process: "Just help your hometown land the Olympics. Then, when no one's looking, persuade the federal government to pay for a good chunk of the Games, including virtually any project to which the magic word Olympics can be attached.... With the skill, grace and precision of a hockey team on a power play, Utah's five-member congressional delegation has used the Olympics to drain money from an unprecedented number of federal departments, agencies and offices -- some three dozen in all, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Agriculture Department."
Once the Games were awarded to Utah, the state's political caste and Olympics boosters found that they could wrap nearly any conceivable subsidy in the Olympic flag. "We are, without shame, using the Olympics to try to get federal funds," explained Tom Warne, head of the Utah Department of Transportation, after a 1997 lobbying session in Washington. "We've designed a strategy to separate Utah from the 49 other states." Salt Lake City's Deseret News reported on March 9, 1997 that "Olympic organizers said there's nothing wrong with telling Congress that every project on Utah's $4.3 billion [wish list] ... is needed for the Winter Games, even though their own must-do projects on that list total $55 million."
In the name of the 2002 Winter Olympics, taxpayers across the nation were soaked for $500 million in highway improvements, $326 million for a light rail transit system, $30 million for revamping parking lots, $1 million for a weather-forecasting array, and millions of dollars for numerous other Olympics-related infrastructure projects -- and the meter is still running. Even more outrageous are the federal subsidies that were directed to Olympics-connected private interests, several of which are among the nation's wealthiest developers.
Clinton Charles Meyer, a contractor based in California, traded a 386-acre tract of land for the Olympic park for an access road across a different tract in which he held a majority interest; that road was paid for with $2 million drawn from federal mineral-rights and petroleum royalties. With the access road in place, 750 acres were opened up for condominiums and luxury homes. The land value of Meyer's Summit Ranch development, where the new homes were built, skyrocketed from $3 million in 1990 to $48 million in 2000 -- a windfall underwritten, in part, by U.S. taxpayers.
Perhaps the most outrageous case is that of oil billionaire Robert Earl Holding, owner of Utah's Snowbasin ski resort, which will host the downhill skiing competition and several other Winter Games events. As a member of the SLOC, "Holding sat on the committee that had awarded him $14 million for his involvement in the Olympics," Andrew Jennings points out in The Great Olympic Swindle. Holding also found other ways to cash in on the Winter Games.
For years Holding had sought to expand Snowbasin to make it competitive with other Utah ski resorts, but like many developers and property owners in the western United States his plans were thwarted by the federal government, which owned the land he needed. Shortly after Utah secured the 2002 Olympics, Senator Hatch and Utah Representative Jim Hansen introduced legislation providing for a "land swap" that would give Holding 1,320 acres he coveted in exchange "for lands of approximately equal value" owned by one of his companies. Rep. Hansen insisted that the swap was necessary to facilitate the Winter Games. The legislation was written with input from Gray Reynolds, a senior official in the U.S. Forest Service.
The land-swap measure was tucked into an omnibus public lands management act that was signed in November 1996. Shortly thereafter Reynolds retired from the Forest Service -- and went to work for Holding as general manager of Snowbasin. Holding (who comes in at number 236 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans) also received taxpayer funds to build a $15 million road through his newly acquired lands to his ski resort. Senator Bennett inserted the necessary appropriation into the U.S. Forest Service budget. "If we don't get [the $15 million appropriation] this year," Bennett insisted in 1998, "we might as well hold the downhill in Colorado."
One concern expressed by Utahns who opposed the state's Olympics bid was that the Winter Games would leave the state saddled with debt. But as Utah Representative Merrill Cook explained, putting taxpayers nationwide on the hook for the cost of the Games "means any talk of a tax increase at home has been laid to rest." Besides, Cook maintained in an interview with the Deseret News, it's the responsibility of the federal government to help Utah deal with the "great borden of hosting the 2002 Winter Games n America's behalf."
Undoubtedly, business elites in other states would gladly bear similar "burdens" if given the opportunity. Between 1995 and 1998, notes Andrew Jennings, "the SLOC gave out contracts worth $68.3 million. Around $50 million of that went to businesses controlled by individuals closely associated with--the SLOC." And while the federal government has subsidized previous Olympic Games held in the United States, "no federal tax dollars were spent to significantly increase t e long-term value of private business interests in Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Lake P1 cid," pointed out Sports Illustrated.
Potemkin "Reform" of the IOC
The eruption of the Salt Lake Olympic bribery scandal prompted IOC President Samaranch to mount a hasty damage-control effort. In early 1999, a handful of IOC members implicated in the scandal were given trivial reprimands -- and several of the worst offenders were appointed to the IOC "Ethics Commission" created by Samaranch a year later. That panel also included numerous members of the globalist political elite, including former Senator Howard Baker -- a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) -- and former UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Samaranch appointed himself to head a separate "Reform Commission" that included former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and Henry Kissinger (CER). The U.S. Olympic Committee appointed former Senator George Mitchell (CFR) and Ken Duberstein (CFR), a former chief of staff for the Reagan administration, to conduct a separate investigation of the Salt Lake affair. The involvement of such luminaries -- particularly four members of the world-government-promoting Council on Foreign Relations -- illustrates the importance attached to the Olympics by the global power elite.
Samaranch and his commission principally intended to persuade the Congress that the IOC could rehabilitate itself without the imposition of sanctions (such as changes in the group's tax status, or to laws governing fraud). During an October 1999 meeting in Geneva, the IOC adopted a series of modest reforms, including term limits for committee members and new financial disclosure rules. Kissinger attended the Geneva meeting and told the AP: "I think more has been achieved than many of those I consulted thought possible. If Duberstein and Mitchell and I support [the IOC reforms], I think the Congress would go along."
To help redeem the Olympics' public image, the IOC hired Hill and Knowlton, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm. Hill and Knowlton, writes Jennings, has earned a reputation "as the repressive regimes' favorite lobbyist." Among its clients was the Communist Chinese regime in Beijing.
"It's a small Olympic world," observes Jennings. "Samaranch plotted for a decade to take the games where the sponsors most wanted -- to China. Hill and Knowlton worked for the Chinese government and Air China. Over the years Kissinger's work has brought him into contact with leading Hill and Knowlton strategists. Henry Kissinger smoothed Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola's path into Beijing and spoke up against sanctions after the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square. Samaranch completed the circle ... by riding a bike across the notorious square in 1993, smiling for the cameras and doing his best to help them defeat Sydney for the games of 2000. Beijing lost by only two votes."
But Samaranch would make it up to the Butchers of Beijing. At the IOC's 2001 meeting in Moscow to select the 2008 host city, Samaranch "made it known that he would like to end his Olympic career by sending the Games to the world's most populous country for the first time," reported the July 12, 1999 Deseret News. Lending his voice to the pro-Beijing chorus in Moscow, SLOC President Mitt Romney declared: "The Olympics are about building bridges, not building walls."
While Romney was dispensing his platitudes about "building bridges' Russian security goons were roughing up a small contingent of Tibetan protesters who had gathered across from the Moscow trade center. The demonstrators were protesting Beijing's occupation of Tibet and carried a banner showing five bullet holes in place of the five Olympic rings. At about the same time, Communist China was flexing its muscles by conducting what columnist Mike O'Callaghan of the Las Vegas Sun called "its most serious war games in the area of Taiwan.... This year's exercises simulated missile attacks and troops landing on and around Dongchan Island. These are believed to be the military tactics that will be used if they attack Taiwan." O'Callaghan expressed surprise that SLOC President Romney was "going along with the Red tide sweeping the Olympics into Beijing.... Romney, a businessman and promising politician, must have forgotten some of his training hack home."
In fact, some American business leaders have been very good students of Olympic corporate socialism. This is why Coca-Cola, Xerox, General Motors, and other U.S. based transnational corporations helped underwrite Beijing's $20 million Olympic bid -- helping to build the regime's prestige as a means of obtaining "access" to the tightly regimented Chinese economy.
In 2008, American taxpayers -- still paying the bill for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics -- will be able to watch television coverage of beach volleyball matches staged in Tiananmen Square.
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According to Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the 2002 Winter Olympics could not be held without federal subsidies. "It's not pork," Romney told the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner. "You can't hold the Games without it."
Never mind that the first Olympic Games held in this country -- the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York -- did not receive one penny in federal subsidies. Lake Placid, a small working-class community, was awarded the Games in 1929, shortly before the Stock Market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, "Lake Placid went ahead on faith ... and built an indoor arena, an outdoor ice stadium, a ski jump, and a bobsled run," recalled the January 1st Boston Globe.
The Globe observes that the event's organizers hoped "that they would break even on a $1 million budget by selling tickets for $3 and $1' with a full day for $8 and the entire program for between $15 and $45." But for the Games to take place, facilities had to be built -- and capitalizing such a project was difficult in a wrecked economy. Accordingly, Olympic boosters sought government help -- but in keeping with the principle of federalism, they turned to local government first.
To build the infrastructure for the Games, the town of North Elba, which includes Lake Placid, issued $350,000 in bonds. Some additional financing was provided by the New York state government. "Thirty-five years later, in 1967, the townspeople finally paid off the bonds at a total cost of $1 million, without any federal assistance," reports Sports Illustrated.
When Lake Placid hosted the Winter Games a second time in 1980, the event cost $363 million (in inflation-adjusted dollars), of which the federal government paid more than half. Of the estimated $1.3 billion in federal money spent on the Salt Lake Winter Games, $342 million was spent in direct outlays for the events themselves; the rest was spent on construction and other projects that were funded as Olympic "necessities."
In the wake of Black Tuesday, Congress boosted the security appropriation for the Olympics from $200 million t $240 million. However, as Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste points out, "just over fifty percent [of federal mone earmarked for the Games] is for security and the rest is for infrastruture and other activities that in many ways don't have a national significance." This is a marked contrast with the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where "ninety-five percent of the federal share was for security."
Interestingly, American competitors dominated the first Lake Placid Games, the only U.S.-based Olympiad in which no federal money was used: In 1932, for the first and so far only time, the U.S. won the medal count in a Winter Olympics.
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|Title Annotation:||United States|
|Author:||Grigg, William Norman|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Jan 28, 2002|
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