- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY. — Francois Carrard must have thought he was being amusing when he pointed out an example of how the International Olympic Committee has fundamentally changed since the bribery scandal that exposed the organization's moral and financial corruption.

"Notice that we are staying in Little America," said the IOC director general, referring to the hotel for the organization's delegates, "not the Grand America across the street."

What a card, that Francois. A regular Jay Leno.

He said this just hours after the IOC refused to allow American athletes to carry the U.S. flag from the World Trade Center's ground zero site during the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony tomorrow night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The IOC relented only when it appeared that, on the eve of the Games, the organization was about to join the ranks of America's Most Hated. The IOC didn't get it, didn't recognize that the old rules don't apply to much of anything since September 11, including supposedly hallowed IOC traditions.

Yesterday the IOC agreed to a compromise that would allow a group of American athletes, along with police officers and firefighters, to carry the flag in the Opening Ceremony as part of a program separate from the main parade of athletes. The flag will be marched to a pole, where it will be hoisted as the national anthem plays.

"This will be a very solemn moment of the Opening Ceremony," Carrard said. "There will be American athletes and American heroes, and it will be a very dignified event."

Too late, Frans. Once again the IOC showed its true colors, which are always against anything red, white and blue.

Make no mistake about it: There are a lot of things that IOC members would like to do with the American flag that are neither solemn nor dignified. The IOC's initial refusal to allow the flag to be part of the Opening Ceremony was as much about the contempt and hatred the organization has for America as about the Olympic tradition that prohibits political displays during the march into the stadium.

This is a hallowed Olympic tradition, right up there with accepting cash, free trips and college scholarships from bid cities in return for votes.

That IOC tradition has been done away with as a result of a scandal in which Salt Lake bid organizers offered all sorts of financial inducements to persuade IOC members to award them the Games. And because of that, among other things, the IOC has a deep resentment of America.

America is the country that investigated the more than $1million in payoffs to IOC members. America is the country that dared to order former IOC executive director Juan Antonio Samaranch to come to Washington and then embarrased his royal highness by daring to question his integrity in Congressional hearings. America is the country that insisted on putting the bribery case on trial here in Utah.

The Japanese and Australians knew what they were doing, getting rid of evidence of payoffs to IOC members in their successful bids for the 1998 Winter Games and 2000 Summer Games. The Japanese wined, dined and offered everything from cash to women to nearly every single member of the IOC and then came up with $27million for Samaranch's Olympic Museum in Switzerland. The monument to his royal highness that now stands in Lausanne was the only evidence of wrongdoing that remained by the time the Salt Lake scandal prompted demands for more inquiries.

Salt Lake, though, left a trail of letters, memos and other documents detailing gifts, trips and payoffs to IOC members when the scandal was first reported in 1999. The Mormons, it turned out, were choir boys when it came to this bribery business, out of their league.

But because of Salt Lake City, the party ended for IOC members. Ten members were either dismissed or forced to resign because of the scandal. Those paid wine-and-dine trips to bid cities ended, and the calls came in for reform although it appears the shame of Salt Lake already may be wearing off. Recently, the organization tabled action on new rules to avoid conflicts of interest.

"I'm disappointed that we have so little confidence in ourselves that we need an ethics commission to tell us how to act," said New Zealand IOC member Tay Wilson.

You can blame America for that.

It was clear in Sydney how deeply the IOC resented the United States when it gleefully leaked the results of a failed drug test by shot putter C.J. Hunter, the husband of sprinter Marion Jones. The leak came on the heels of American criticism of inadequate drug testing by the IOC. Its members reveled in the American embarrassment.

Now, in Salt Lake, they were being asked to make a special accommodation for America? They had already made too many accommodations as it was.

Do you want to know how pervasive the IOC attitude is? Listen to IOC member and American representative Anita DeFrantz's defense the IOC ban on the ground zero flag:

"Every country in the IOC has issues," DeFrantz said. "As Americans, we have to understand it's a world event and also that we are a guest even though we are the host nation."

Apparently, Anita is a citizen of the world, not the United States. That was evident more than 20 years ago as well. DeFrantz, a member of the rowing team that won a bronze medal in the 1976 Montreal Games, sued the U.S. government for boycotting the 1980 Games in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A Sports Illustrated reporter asked DeFrantz, "What do you think of the fact that we are boycotting?" She answered, "What do you mean 'we'?"

Despite her reservations, Anita DeFrantz will see what "we" means when they march the Ground Zero flag into the stadium tomorrow night.


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