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The leader of the Olympic movement added his voice Sunday to an underlying criticism of the Centennial Games: commercialism got out of hand in Atlanta.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch stopped short of calling the games "the best ever" and said steps will be taken to ensure that problems in Atlanta will not be repeated at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.Samaranch praised the "excellent competitions" in Atlanta, the record participation of 197 countries and the record turnout of millions of spectators.

But he pointedly declined to call them the greatest games in history, as he has done at the end of previous summer and winter Olympics.

In his speech at Sunday night's closing ceremony, Samaranch said the games "have indeed been most exceptional."

Earlier, Samaranch took aim at the carnival-like merchandising that occurred outside the control of the International Olympic Committee and the Atlanta organizing committee.

"Sport must be directed by sport itself, not by commercialization as was the case in Atlanta," he told a news conference on the final day of the games.

Samaranch said the Olympics needs commercialization to survive but stressed that it must be controlled and directed by the Olympic movement.

"This commercialization must not run the games," he said. "The games must be run by the IOC."

While Samaranch's comment appeared directed at Atlanta organizers, IOC marketing director Michael Payne took a different approach.

"All our criticism is directed at the marketing programs of the city, not the organizing committee," he said. "The city, in our view, ambushed its own image."

The city of Atlanta leased space to vendors who set up merchandising tents around venues and the downtown Centennial Olympic Park, turning parts of the city into a virtual flea market.

Samaranch reiterated the IOC's opposition to games being staged exclusively with private financing. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games scrambled to meet its $1.7 billion budget.

While no rule will be written into the Olympic Charter, IOC officials will take into account financial guarantees in assessing the bids for the 2004 games, Samaranch said.

Samaranch cited the early organizational problems which marred the worldwide image of the games.

"At the beginning we had some problems with arrival of teams and transportation and technology," he said. "Bit by bit, things were controlled. In the last week, things were excellent in the organization of the games."

Samaranch said the IOC would recommend a change in the accreditation system for Olympic teams, noting that many athletes and officials were stuck at the airport for hours on arrival in Atlanta.

Samaranch suggested that the largest teams be accredited in their own countries before traveling to Sydney.