Olympic Shakedown

With powdery snow and breathtaking scenery, the mountains near Salt Lake City will be a majestic stage for the 2002 Winter Olympics. But right now, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales, those scenic peaks are ground zero for an explosive scandal over how the city won the lucrative event.

The games could generate $3 billion and put local ski resorts on the map as world class tourist attractions.

However, recent accusations that local officials went too far in their quest for Olympic gold have shaken this once proud community. Four separate investigations have been launched, including a criminal probe by the FBI examining charges that Salt Lake Olympic officials filed false tax returns and bribed members of the International Olympic Committee -- or IOC -- with scholarships for their children, lavish gifts and free medical care.

Dr. Richard Anderson, a prominent Salt Lake plastic surgeon, was urged by Tom Welch, the head of the city's Olympic bid committee, to perform free cosmetic eye surgery on a member of the IOC.

"He had very droopy, saggy eyelids," says Anderson. "He said the gentleman needed it done, that he wanted it done, and he thought it was important to the Olympic bid situation to have this gentleman happy."

Local officials first denied buying votes, but after questions were raised they admitted giving "humanitarian aid" to IOC members. They say their efforts were not extraordinary since Olympic organizers have always received royal treatment.

"We're doing all we can to bring everything to light but it's clear that whatever problems exist are deeper and broader than Salt Lake City," says Shelley Thomas of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee.

In fact, shortly after the scandal broke, IOC ethics chair Marc Hodler charged that unnamed agents have been extorting Olympic cities for years -- promising blocks of votes for payoffs of up to $5 million.

"For us, Salt Lake City was the victim of blackmail and not a villain," says Hodler

The IOC is reviewing its rules and will no longer allow committee members to visit bidding cities. But, for now, it seems world organizers of this noble event have forgotten the Olympic virtues of friendship, solidarity, and fair play.

Reported by Vince Gonzales
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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