SALT LAKE CITY — These are moments frozen in time, controversies from the past that linger today, raising questions of fairness and the nature of the Olympic spirit.
Three times, the International Olympic Committee's executive board has been asked to rewrite the past for the benefit--some say justice--of American athletes. Three times it has declined.
Roy Jones, perhaps the best boxer of his generation, is stuck with silver awarded him in Seoul in 1988.
Swimmer Rick DeMont, a 16-year-old stripped of a gold medal at the Munich Games in 1972 in for taking a medicine he needed to breathe, is still empty-handed.
And the 1972 U.S. basketball team is still considered runner-up to the Soviet Union. Winners at first, then losers.
"Sometimes," IOC Director General Francois Carrard said in a recent interview, a piece of the Games turns out to be "tragic or dramatic. But it's a part of history too."
A review of the IOC executive board's confidential minutes obtained by The Times offers insight into the intricacies of Olympic politics in each case--even as they highlight the human capacity for error and arrogance as well as humility and heartbreak.
Even today, years later, the cases raise questions about institutional integrity, the sanctity of principle and the responsibility of Olympic officials to make things right.
The Olympics survive because, as acclaimed U.S. film director Jon Turtletaub said Sunday during the opening of the IOC's 113th general assembly, the Games represent "the world as we wish it could be."
"Clocks don't lie," Turtletaub said. "Tape measures don't cheat.... During the Olympics your value is based purely on your ability. And, usually, the best prevails."
What happens, though, when reality clashes with the Olympic ideal?
Three days before he fought South Korea's Park Si Hun in the light-middleweight championship, Jones had this to say: "I know how tough it is to get a decision [here] against a South Korean, but it doesn't matter. If they cheat me, that's OK. I'll know I really won it."
In the ring, Jones dominated Park. A company charting the fight for NBC had Jones landing 86 punches to Park's 32. Park was awarded a 3-2 decision.
"Veteran ring observers of all nationalities, reporters, referees and fans agreed that it was the worst decision they had ever seen," Olympic historian David Wallechinsky writes in the most recent version of his authoritative book on the Summer Olympics.
Park reportedly apologized to Jones, telling him through an interpreter, according to Wallechinsky, "I am sorry. I lost the fight. I feel very bad."
There were allegations of bribes. Allegations of payback for pro-U.S. decisions at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Several journalists quoted judge Hiouad Larbi of Morocco saying, "The American won easily. So easily, in fact, that I was positive my four fellow judges would score the fight for the American by a wide margin. So I voted for the Korean to make the score only 4-1 for the American and not embarrass the host country."
Wallechinsky writes that judges from Uruguay and Uganda did the same thing.
The matter rested until the spring of 1996, when files surfaced from the Stasi, the former East German secret police, purporting murky payments--origin unknown--to boxing officials at the Seoul Games.
Later that year, the U.S. Olympic Committee asked the IOC to award Jones an additional gold medal--it did not ask the IOC to take Park's. Anita DeFrantz, the senior American in the IOC and a member of the executive board, also requested an investigation.
Then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch agreed, according to the minutes, adding, "What had happened in Seoul was very clear." Samaranch went on to say the IOC "had had problems with boxing in the past," and that after the Seoul Olympics, he had spoken with officials from the International Boxing Federation, and told them the sport was "in danger of being dropped from the Olympic program" unless steps were taken "to avoid a repeat of such [judging] scandals."
The IOC set up a task force that reported back in November 1996, and longtime IOC member Keba Mbaye of Senegal, who once served as a judge on the World Court in The Hague, announced the initial results: "Everyone agreed that the final decision of the bout had been unfair to Roy Jones, as it was obvious that he ought to have won."
The judges had been given money by their Korean hosts, Mbaye said. "There was also no doubt that money had been distributed to the tune of $300 per person for 16 days, to compensate, it was claimed, for the fact that the judges got out late after the competitions and were therefore unable to go to restaurants easily," he said.
To understand what a rich per diem that was, NBA players today--14 years later--get $93 a day when on the road.
Samaranch asked for a further investigation and asked Carrard to find Larbi, the judge who allegedly told reporters he had voted for Park to appease the host nation.