The scandal surrounding the International Olympic Committee points up just how out of step American morality is with the rest of the world.
The implication is clear. The same lack of worldly sophistication that causes the U.S. to prosecute President Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky is responsible for undoing what has been the accepted method of business almost since the modern Olympics began -- greasing the process a bit.Americans, it seems, foolishly believe that the bidding for the highly sought-after sites of both Winter and Summer Games should be a fair process and that contesting cities should be judged strictly on their merit -- no matter that there are billions of dollars at stake.
If that were the case, does anyone think for a Salt Lake City minute that last year's Winter Games would have been held in Nagano, Japan, where the weather is lousy, the accommodations sparse and transportation to and from extremely difficult?
Of course they wouldn't. Those of us who stood outdoors while one event after the other was postponed for lack of snow or too much snow knew instantly that someone had intervened with something other than a first-rate plan of operation.
We learned while we were there that at least one Japanese billionaire had seen fit to donate some funds to the favorite charity of IOC grand pooh-bah Juan Antonio Samaranch. It was the same guy, I believe, who owned the hotels around the skiing venues in the Japan Alps.
We also knew and wrote about the heavy burden of debt Nagano and its neighbors had assumed to get those Games ($11 billion) and that the IOC had been wined and dined lavishly before the selection was made. Everyone just seemed to take it as a matter of course. You know -- the way business is done.
Now we learn that some committee members (four have resigned and nine others have been implicated) have been accepting favors from several different site-seekers, including Sydney, Australia, which won the 2000 Summer Games.
There are those who would argue that none of this has anything to do with the athletes or the Games. It's just choosing where they will be held and anything goes. Until it was revealed just how shabby it all is, that was the prevailing attitude of the IOC and, for that matter, much of the press, which touched on it now and then but didn't do much more.
If Samaranch, who likes to be called "Excellency" or some such royal nonsense, didn't know all about this, he is deaf, dumb and blind and wouldn't know a snowball from a spitball. And to argue that the Games aren't impacted by what goes on in the selection process is ludicrous.
It's the same kind of thinking that led Clinton to deny the role model importance of the presidency, and Europeans to laugh at Americans for clucking over his sexual indiscretions and lies.
The Olympics should be a model of morality from top to bottom. Olympic competitors must undergo incessant drug testing, and rightly so. Why shouldn't those in charge of the Games face some scrutiny for honesty?
But the job of cleaning up the Games still has a long way to go. The next step should be for Samaranch to resign now.
But if nothing else grows out of this, there should be a new respect for American morality. Americans who have argued that our standards are so high that we often are unable to compete with the rest of the world should shut up. Thank goodness they are.