Utah Bidders Sought IOC Visit

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Salt Lake City,UT, Feb. 23 (AP)--Members of Salt Lake's Olympic bid committee tried for years to convince IOC vice president Kevan Gosper to visit Utah, even inviting his family on a river rafting trip with the governor.

Documents released to the Deseret News show that top bid committee officials repeatedly wrote Gosper asking him to visit.

The pleas became especially desperate when the Australian member canceled a trip he had planned shortly before the International Olympic Committee awarded Japan the 1998 Winter Games over Salt Lake City in 1991.

``You have been identified as one of the four key individuals who must see our city if we are to win,'' bid committee chair Tom Welch wrote Gosper in January 1991.

``If you cannot spend a couple days in our city skiing, I will even take you for one day on your way to or from (the IOC's Swiss headquarters). Help!'' Welch wrote.

Gosper wrote a long letter to Welch dated May 16, 1991, pointing out that he did not visit any other candidates for the 1998 Olympics ``and to visit one would seem to me to be unfair and draw criticism.''

He also told Welch he was returning some airline tickets ``you so kindly forwarded.''

In an earlier fax sent from his London office, Gosper had promised to ``simply find my own way to and from Salt Lake City, the cost of which I would be grateful if you could reimburse in due course.''

At that time, IOC members were allowed to accept free trips to bid cities. The IOC has forbidden such visits in the wake of the scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's Olympic bidders, who are accused of giving away more than $1 million in trips, cash, gifts and scholarships to IOC members and their families.

After Gosper turned him down early in 1991, Welch faxed a note to his wife, Judy, asking the family to visit Utah.

``Now as friends, I extend to you and Kevan a personal invitation to join me on a river trip the first week of August 1991, with Utah's Governor through the Grand Canyon and-or a family ski holiday this coming winter.''

Gosper didn't visit Salt Lake City until 1995 but did send his family to Utah in 1993 for a ski vacation arranged by bidders.

He maintains that he can prove he paid for the trip to Deer Valley. Documents show he thought he was paying all expenses, but bid officials were quietly paying part of the cost, estimated at around $11,000, and filing two sets of invoices.

The documents released to the newspaper by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee don't include any evidence that Gosper paid for the trip.

But SLOC vice president of communications Shelley Thomas said there may well be evidence in the files and that records left behind by the bid committee are often incomplete.

The records do show that when Gosper and his wife did finally come to Salt Lake on an official visit in May 1995, he made a point of offering to pay the difference for his wife to continue on to Japan with him rather than returning to Australia.

Her flight cost more than $10,100, the documents show. A notation at the bottom of an invoice stated that the ``cost w/o Japan (was) $2,111.''

On that trip, Gosper was joined by four other IOC members: Jim Easton of the United States, Tan Seri Hamzah of Malaysia, Ram Ruhee of Mauritius and Lamine Keita of Mali. Keita was one of 10 IOC members expelled because of the scandal.

Gosper praised Salt Lake's preparations, telling organizers they were ``a mile ahead'' of the competition and ``the lowest risk opportunity to the IOC.'' He also advised the bidders to ``keep a steady nerve and no mistakes and you'll win.''

The bid records supplied by SLOC also show that in October 1993, Salt Lake bid officials took Gosper and four other IOC members out to dinner at Le Cirque, one of New York City's finest restaurants.

The bill for the evening, including limousine service, came to more than $4,200. Anita DeFrantz of tthe United States, Dick Pound of Canada, Henry Adefope of Nigeria and Walther Troeger of Germany also attended the dinner, along with IOC director general Francois Carrard, marketing director Michael Payne and Alfredo LaMont, the U.S. Olympic Committee official forced to resign in the scandal.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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