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Kim gets criticism over IOC pay plan

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MOSCOW — The only International Olympic Committee presidential candidate sanctioned in the Salt Lake scandal is promising that if he's elected Monday, IOC members will be paid a "minimum" of $50,000 a year toward their Olympic-related expenses.

Un Yong Kim of South Korea, seen as a front-runner in the five-person race to succeed outgoing IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, said Saturday he was not offering money for votes.

"No, that has nothing to do with votes. If they help, that's OK," he told reporters covering the IOC's meetings here. IOC members, he said, "are kind of ambassadors. I want to give their status pride, prestige and dignity."

His "Olympic ambassadors" program already is conjuring up images of the bribery scandal that surrounded Salt Lake City's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

"I think to the outside world, it would sound the same," said Anita DeFrantz, also a presidential candidate and an IOC vice president from the United States.

Canada's Dick Pound, another rival candidate, said he believed "the great majority of the members will be offended by such a proposal." Pound called it "completely unacceptable" to, in his words, turn IOC members into salaried employees.

"It's totally foreign to the tradition of the IOC. Our members have always been volunteers, including the leadership. It would change the character and the motivation" of IOC members, Pound said. "I see it as a complete non-starter."

Belgium's Jacques Rogge, who shares front-runner status with Kim, said he agreed with the proposal "with the exception of finances." He said IOC members must remain volunteers.

Even Mitt Romney, who just days ago praised Kim as "a very open and generous individual," criticized the proposal. "The salary idea is decidedly a bad idea," the Salt Lake Organizing Committee president said.

"The Olympics is an endeavor of service, and it's an honor to be associated with it. I think payment for service in the IOC would send the wrong message to the world," Romney said. But he added that he does not think the proposal taints the Salt Lake Games.

Kim said $50,000 would be the minimum needed annually by each IOC member to maintain an office. "For me, $50,000, for example, is not big. But for many parts of the world that would cover one year."

The IOC, which currently has 122 members, would have to spend more than $6 million a year to fund the program. Kim said the money could come from cutting unnecessary expenses such as "extravaganzas and extra Olympic-related activities," such as symposiums.

The Salt Lake factor

The proposal to pay IOC members is latest twist in the hotly contested campaign to succeed Samaranch. While DeFrantz and Hungary's Pal Schmitt appear to have virtually no chance of winning, Pound may be gaining strength as a result of the proposal becoming public.

Kim's chances of winning may have already been damaged after the IOC's controversial decision Friday to give Beijing the 2008 Summer Games. Beijing's victory has raised the question of whether IOC members are willing to elect an Asian candidate. Kim would be the first IOC president from Asia.

Six of the seven presidents in the IOC's 100-plus year history have been from Europe, including Samaranch, a Spaniard who has served 21 years. The only non-European to serve as IOC president, Avery Brundage, was from the United States.

Some members aren't so sure they want to risk the unknown, especially since they also have to deal with the difficulties associated with China's first Olympics, including the country's dismal human rights record.

The Salt Lake bid scandal is another factor. In a wide-ranging interview with the Deseret News Saturday, Kim said for the first time he's certain that U.S. authorities have no information connecting him to the bid scandal.

"I know they have no files in Washington about me," Kim said. "They have no files in Washington or in any place. I know that." He declined to elaborate.

Kim also said "everyone hopes (the U.S. government) will drop" the case against Tom Welch and Dave Johnson set to go to trial July 30. "Most of the public opinion is that it is going away. It cannot go on forever for nothing."

Kim said he has never been questioned about the case despite traveling to the United States five times in the past two years on diplomatic missions for the South Korean government.

He maintains he did nothing wrong, even though he received a "most serious" of warnings from the IOC in 1999 for assistance given to his children by the Salt Lake bid.

"I don't need more money. I don't need benefits. I would have helped with anything the U.S. was doing. They didn't have to ask," Kim said.

"Cosmetic" changes?

The scandal resulting from revelations Salt Lake bidders gave away more than $1 million in cash and gifts to influence the IOC's 1995 vote on a 2002 Winter Games host city led to the expulsion or resignation of 10 IOC members and the sanctioning of 10 others, including Kim.

Pound headed the IOC's investigative committee and Rogge and Schmitt were members. DeFrantz has been accused by Johnson of knowing what went on during the Salt Lake bid, an allegation she denies.

Kim's son, John, has been charged in federal court in connection with what authorities described as a "sham job" arranged for him by the Salt Lake bid committee.

Kim said most of the reforms approved by the IOC after the scandal were "cosmetic." He has called for the reinstatement of visits to candidate cities, which is proving to be a popular platform.

Saturday, members burst into applause when Nikos Filaretos of Greece said he wanted to be able to visit cities vying to host the Games. He suggested the ban casts suspicions on members.

Kim said he would have the IOC pay for and monitor the visits. "Then how can a bidding committee do anything funny?"

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com