Salt Lake Organizing Committee members no doubt breathed a sigh of relief Saturday after hearing that the International Olympic Committee might help the scandal-scarred 2002 Winter Games financially.
The good news came the same day US WEST came up with a cool $5 million for the beleaguered Olympic effort. The company had been one of the most vocal critics of the bribes-for-votes allegations.IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch suggested that the IOC might help the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games financially if the scandal results in less money being raised than expected, according to the Associated Press.
"We signed a contract, and each partner should in principle abide by that," Samaranch said in an interview published Saturday in Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper. "It depends on what help Salt Lake City wants. We will find a solution."
Also on Saturday, the SLOC got a ringing verbal -- and financial -- endorsement from one of its most openly distressed corporate sponsors.
No doubt US WEST's endorsement in the form of a $5 million check, presented to the SLOC during a morning press conference, was the kind of support organizers and state officials have been hoping to see as questions continue to swirl about Salt Lake City's bid effort.
"I am willing on behalf of my company, US WEST, to commit the dollars," Sol Trujillo, US WEST president and CEO, said later.
The check was grasped by a smiling Bob Garff, SLOC chairman, and was applauded by Gov. Mike Leavitt.
Trujillo praised Leavitt for acting decisively when the allegations of bribes-for-votes emerged and agreed with Leavitt's contention that the corruption did not start in Salt Lake City but must end here.
The last few weeks have been a nightmarish time for the SLOC, which has struggled with allegations of bribes for votes to win the Olympic bid originally, worries that corporate sponsors might withdraw their big bucks and fears that some other city might snatch away the 2002 Winter Games.
Individuals in Calgary, Canada, and Innsbruck, Austria, have suggested that their cities would be good choices to replace Salt Lake for the Games. Additionally, Montreal, which bid on the 2002 Games, hinted it might sue the IOC.
IOC member Marc Hodler also suggested that the Olympics be canceled or moved to Lillehammer, Norway, or Nagano, Japan, the sites of the 1994 and 1998 Olympics. However, IOC Marketing Director Michael Payne quickly discounted those suggestions Jan. 12 by saying that only such forces as war, earthquake, civil disturbance or an act of God would move the Olympics from Salt Lake.
On Saturday, Trujillo also said that some members of the IOC presumably are at fault and he also believes that the IOC's processes must be overhauled.
Trujillo said he supports Leavitt's efforts to separate the on-going organizing efforts from the bid process, which occurred with different people and in the past. "That should not penalize the state of Utah or the city of Salt Lake," Trujillo said.
US WEST had earlier withheld the $5 million -- which is part of a pledge of $60 million in financial and in-kind support -- until it got some answers about the alleged corruption.
Mark Roellig, US WEST's executive vice president and general counsel, had talked of "unsavory allegations" of bribery tarnishing Olympic ideals in a Dec. 18 letter that was sent to Frank Joklik, who recently resigned as CEO of the SLOC. "The very core of these ideals and the spirit of the Games are now under scrutiny and perhaps tainted. This is an extremely serious issue for all of us," Roellig wrote.
Joklik resigned earlier this month, as did Dave Johnson, senior vice president of the Games. Additionally, Tom Welch, who formerly headed the SLOC, lost his $10,000 per month consulting job with the organization.
Leavitt said on Saturday that he has heard from many corporate sponsors and they are staying with Salt Lake.
Currently, there are four investigations into allegations that IOC members' votes were bought by expensive gifts, cash, scholarships for children of IOC members, free medical care and possibly at least one questionable land deal.
Leavitt said he did not know when an independent SLOC ethics panel will be finished with its work but promised full disclosure of that investigation's results.
The other agencies conducting investigations are the IOC, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Department of Justice.
"We're clearly on track for preparing for the Games, and we will host the Games in a way that I believe people will be proud of, not just in Utah but around the world," Leavitt said.