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'Adjust to new realities,' make changes, task force urges IOC

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Henry Kissinger urged the IOC Tuesday to be more open and accountable as it tries to recover from the worst crisis in Olympic history.

The effort is being led by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who continues to insist he won't be pressured to resign before his term ends in two years.In an interview with the Associated Press Monday, Samaranch dismissed speculation -- including from one of his own deputies -- that he might step down early.

His comments came on the eve of the opening session of a task force assigned with recommending reforms of the International Olympic Committee following the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.

Task force member Peter Ueberroth, chief organizer of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, said abuses in the Olympic bidding process extended far beyond Salt Lake City.

"Salt Lake City in my opinion is probably one of the most innocent bid cities in recent times," he said. "You know that and I know that. The culture that caused the problems started in 1956 and can easily be disposed of by this body and current leadership of the IOC."

Kissinger, one of the most prominent members of the task force, said politicians and sponsors in the United States are worried. "There does seem to be a concern with transparency and accountability," he said.

The former U.S. secretary of state said the IOC's problems resulted from the massive growth of the Olympics the past two decades and asked the 105-year-old organization to "adjust to new realities."

He suggested the IOC widen its membership to include outside groups on a rotating basis. He said the committee's meetings should be open "as far as possible."

Kissinger is one of 36 outside members on the 80-member IOC 2000 commission, which was formed in the wake of the vote-buying scandal stemming from Salt Lake City's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

The reform panel is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday to begin examining ways of overhauling the IOC's structure and the process for selecting host cities.

Among other things, the commission is expected to consider changes to the way IOC members are selected, including introducing term limits and reducing the mandatory retirement age, which is now 80.

Ueberroth asked the IOC to curb the size of the Olympics.

"Bigger is not better," he said. "If the Games get any bigger, no city or country will be able to do it well. There must be restraint of growth or the games will fail."

The strongest words came from Norwegian speed skater Johan Olav Koss, winner of three gold medals at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. He challenged the IOC to clean up its act and give a bigger voice to athletes.

"Is the IOC determined to remain a private club or open to transparency and accountability?" Koss said. "If not, the IOC will remain the same, which will ensure further corruption and abuse of power."

Paul Allaire, chairman and CEO of Xerox, a major international sponsor, said, "We expect the IOC to make dramatic and specific changes. Openness and transparency is a good starting point."

Several of the 42 speakers warned against taking any radical steps.

"We must not feel obliged to revolutionize the whole system as some critics inspired by commercial and political interests have requested," Italian member Mario Pescante said. "The Olympic world doesn't need revolution but evolution."