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Mitt’s stop at IOC office short, sweet

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LAUSANNE -- Mitt Romney was here. Briefly.

The new SLOC president came to Olympic headquarters, gave his report on how the 2002 game plan is progressing, had lunch with Juan Antonio Samaranch, practiced his French, took one look at the distant Alps and, quicker than the Swiss can say Permin Zerbriggen, was gone. All in 21 hours. There are IOC rumors that last a lot longer.A thousand and forty-nine days to the Games of 2002, and not a minute to lose.

Thirty days ago he didn't even know where the IOC headquarters were. Now he's been there and back.

But he did attract a crowd while he was here. When he sat down in his hotel lobby late Tuesday afternoon, an international press conference broke out.

At one point, Romney had reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the London Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and Fox Sports, among others, all bearing down on him, wanting to talk about Salt Lake's scandalous past.

Since Romney had no interest in talking about Salt Lake's scandalous past, the exchanges tended to be quite short.


London Daily Telegraph: "How will you deal with any more skeletons in the closet?"

Romney: "I'm not going to get involved at all with the past."

You could see the British headline coming: "Romney Denies Past."

Romney was thus able to get out of town before the crunch.

Rush hour was expected late this afternoon, immediately following the IOC meeting set up to deal with those delegates implicated in the Salt Lake scandal.

Not that any of the six delegates scheduled for expulsion, or the 10 or so others facing warnings, believed they did anything wrong.

Nobody did nothing.

Even the Finn who resigned because SLOC hired her ex-husband to a non-job changed her mind about her guilt.

She demanded reinstatement . . . and her ex-husband demanded back pay.

Each condemned delegate got 20 minutes to state their defense.

Because no matter how flat the pancake, there are always two sides.

Not nearly enough time for Congo's Jean-Claude Ganga, however.

Ganga got anywhere from $200,000 to $750,000 from Salt Lake. You can't explain that away in a mere 20 minutes.

In a pre-trial rehearsal practiced in front of the media, Ganga answered the charges against him point by point.

This was a man who did want to talk about the past.

Two hours later, he still wasn't finished.

He can explain the medical treatment, the shopping sprees, the refrigerator and fax machine, the $70,000 Tom Welch deposited into his personal banking account back in Brazzaville. Just give him time.

On the $70,000 in his account: "Only for safekeeping."

On the medical services: "I said I wanted to pay. I have insurance."

On that fridge and fax machine in his Salt Lake hotel room: "What do you do? Phone them and say come and get it?"

On the Wal-Mart credit card purchases: "Mrs. Ganga say she pay for everything."

Yes, I would buy a used Mercedes from this man.

It's a tradeoff. The IOC gets rid of people who don't toe the line.

It also gets rid of characters.

Pretty soon they'll look like the Senate without Strom Thurmond.

An essential and historic week here at headquarters d'Olympique. But, still, twinged with sadness.

As loyal son Jean-Noel Ganga, in excellent English, said, sensing that his father's plea was about to fall on deaf ears (and he was right): "We are here to win. But if we don't win, we are sportsmen. We will move on."

Mitt Romney's sentiment exactly.

Send e-mail to benson@desnews.com, fax 801-237-2527. Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.