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Reality check: Decoding the words from the IOC
Second in a series - March 20, 2001

"Everything the IOC says is code for something else. If, for example, they describe the Atlanta Games as 'exceptional,' that's the equivalent of saying, 'hand me a twig, please, I'd like to scrape the Atlanta Olympics off the sole of my shoe'" - Australian Broadcasting Commission show The Games, 1998

The IOC Evaluation Commission held a press conference on March 11 to talk about the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid. Here's a guide to decoding the words of Hein Verbruggen, the chair.

1. "Impressive" level of athlete involvement - Toronto promises Games for athletes.

It's good to have different labels for difference audiences and occasions. Sydney promoters started by calling Sydney 2000 the "Athletes' Games", then switched to "Green Games". They reverted to "Athletes' Games" when Greenpeace criticized their environmental plan.

Sports columnist Randy Starkman asked if the most important consideration was to have the "best Games for the athletes." IOC veteran Verbruggen hedged, but novice Sergei Bubka fell into the trap: "Oh yes," he said. The real answer: the only ones worth worrying about are sponsors, NBC and international sport federation presidents, all of whom can make or break the event. The only thing that will keep athletes away would be fool-proof drug-testing.

Speaking of drugs, Verbruggen, head of the world cycling federation, was formally questioned in November for five hours by French Judge Daniel Delegove. Testimony showed that the majority of riders use illegal substances, but Verbruggen's federation spent only 0.7% of its budget over the past five years fighting doping.

"We invested money against doping, but we are not a rich federation," testified Verbruggen. "That's ridiculous," said Judge Delegove, noting Verbruggen spent $US250,000 on anti-doping from a budget of $US35 million. The judge said he was "astonished" that Verbruggen's federation would not adopt a testing method in use since 1991.

2. Strong government support.

The IOC is satisfied that federal, provincial and municipal taxpayers are fully on the hook for the costs of the Games. The IOC refuses to accept any financial liability and wants to make sure that taxpayers bear the entire risk. See Rule 42 of the International Olympic Charter.

3. Excellent sport complex and "legacy".

The reference to "legacy" is irrelevant since the IOC repeatedly states that they're only interested in the 16-day sporting event. IOC rules forbid Olympic revenues (such as broadcast rights, corporate sponsorships and ticket sales) from being used to cover costs such as construction, environmental remediation and infrastructure.