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Pound's Letter Critical of IOC

Olympics: Canadian writes that the election raises troubling questions about commitment to reform.

August 07, 2001|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — The recent and hard-fought campaign that elected Belgium's Jacques Rogge as president of the International Olympic Committee raises "troubling" questions about the IOC's commitment to reform, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound writes in a blunt, no-holds-barred letter to key sponsors.

In the July 24 letter, obtained Monday by The Times, Pound writes that the election results show "almost complete disregard, even contempt" for the IOC's chief sponsors and broadcasters.

Pound also expresses "grave concerns" over the Olympic movement's future and urges the IOC's corporate backers to seek from Rogge an "early, clear and unequivocal commitment" regarding "the position the IOC will adopt under his leadership."

Pound, who over the last 15 years was instrumental in turning the IOC into a billion-dollar enterprise, finished a distant third in the election, behind Rogge and South Korea's Kim Un Yong. Pound immediately resigned from his IOC marketing and television roles.

The letter surfaced as Rogge journeyed Monday to Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Salt Lake City, site in February of the 2002 Winter Games--a trip designed in part to underscore the importance of U.S. financial support to the Olympic movement.

Seven of the IOC's 10 leading corporate sponsors are U.S.-based. Most are paying $50 million or more for the next four years for the right to be associated with the Olympics' interlocking five rings. NBC, meantime, remains far and away the IOC's single most-important financial underwriter. It is paying $3.5 billion to televise the Games in the United States through 2008.

"My guess is there isn't a thought in [the letter] that hasn't already gone through the minds of every chief executive involved," Pound said Monday in a telephone interview.

The Times obtained copies of the letter from two sources. Pound declined to provide a copy, saying: "It was a private expression of my thoughts to sponsors and broadcasters with whom I've had a relationship for many years."

Said Rogge: "Dick Pound has written a letter. I am not going to comment on the letter. Or on Dick Pound."

But he added: "The marketing policies of the IOC will not change. They will be the same ones. Because they've been successful." He also pledged that sponsors would see a "transparent, democratic, accountable" IOC.

Michael Payne, the IOC's in-house marketing director, said Rogge is planning to visit this autumn in-person with the key IOC sponsors. He met while in Moscow with some of them already, Payne said.

Sponsors understand Pound was "very disappointed in the results in Moscow," Payne said. "They also have seen and heard from Rogge the IOC commitment to reform."

Mitt Romney, head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, said: "Is continuation of the IOC reforms critical to the Olympic movement? Of course. But sponsor support is fundamentally tied to the athlete, not the administration."

Rogge was elected July 16 at a landmark session in Moscow at which the IOC also awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing.

Rogge prevailed in the second round, with 59 votes. South Korea's Kim got 23 votes, Pound 22.

Pound, 59, a Montreal tax lawyer well-known by Olympic insiders for his first-rate mind and razor-sharp wit, has been an IOC member since the late 1970s.

He headed the IOC's internal inquiry launched in late 1998 into the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled after revelations that Salt Lake bidders showered more than $1 million in cash and gifts on IOC members or their relatives.

He is the first chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

And, since the mid-1980s, Pound had been the IOC's marketing point man.

When Pound took over, the movement was foundering financially. Now it generates about $1 billion annually in revenues. He personally negotiated the $3.5 billion NBC contract.

Immediately after being defeated in the July 16 election, Pound resigned his marketing and WADA posts, keeping only his IOC membership. He since has agreed to stay on as WADA head until next year, at Rogge's request.

The July 24 letter candidly explains his thinking in detail.

In the midst of the Salt Lake scandal, Pound writes, he promised sponsors that "the reforms were in place" and the "final step of the process" would be Samaranch's July 2001 retirement after 21 years atop the IOC.

But the "optics of the IOC elections are such that it may appear that the IOC is not as committed to the reform process as I hoped and represented it to be," the letter says.

There is "no doubt," Pound writes, that Rogge was "the personal choice of Samaranch, who was at the center of the storm of controversy that dictated the 1999 IOC reforms," a 50-point plan passed in December 1999.

In a parenthetical, Pound then says: "I should make it clear that I have no personal objection whatsoever to the new president. I have no reason to believe that he is unworthy of the position."

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