BIRMINGHAM, England — The head of the International Olympic Committee warned Wednesday that the Games risk being turned into an overgrown circus unless commercialization, greedy agents and the number of events are kept in check.
"We must not let young athletes lose their freedom and become dependent on agents who determine where and against whom they should compete," Juan Antonio Samaranch said in a speech opening the 97th session of the IOC.
"Olympism, which is essentially an educational movement, must not allow Olympic sport to become mere 'show business.' "
The highlight of the session is expected to be Saturday's vote on the site of the 1998 Winter Games. The 90 IOC members will choose between Salt Lake City, Utah; Nagano, Japan; Ostersund, Sweden; Aosta, Italy, and Jaca, Spain. South Africa is expected to be the focus of discussions in the first IOC working sessions today.
Samaranch defended the IOC's own commercial interests.
"It is our duty to obtain part of the money that sport and our movement generate by means of TV rights agreements, contracts with sponsors and other ways and to use it for the development of sport, culture and the Olympic movement," he said.