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Kim caught in IOC ethics flap

On eve of IOC presidency vote, scandal arises

SHARE Kim caught in IOC ethics flap

MOSCOW — On the eve of the election, the campaign for the IOC presidency turned ugly Sunday with South Korean candidate Kim Un-yong at the center of an ethics probe of alleged financial incentives offered to voting members.

Kim, among those reprimanded in the Salt Lake City bid scandal, denied promising that members would be given at least $50,000 a year in Olympic-related expenses if he was elected president of the International Olympic Committee.

Asked for an explanation by the IOC ethics commission, Kim said he never proposed any specific sum and had only recommended providing delegates with enough funds to maintain offices in their own countries.

While some members suggested the promises amounted to a form of bribery, Kim accused his rivals of leaking information to undermine his campaign.

"This is fiction, they're making fiction," he said. "They will do everything they can to get one more inch. Timing is very important to them."

Kim's troubles only reinforced Belgian surgeon Jacques Rogge's status as favorite heading into Monday's vote to elect a successor to Juan Antonio Samaranch. He's stepping down after 21 years in office.

Kim and Canada's Dick Pound were the other main contenders for the most powerful post in international sports. Anita DeFrantz of the United States and Hungary's Pal Schmitt were long shots.

The election comes three days after another landmark IOC vote: the awarding of the 2008 Olympics to Beijing.

"I'm extremely relaxed," Rogge said. "Everything that's outside of my control, there's no reason to be nervous about. At the same time, I'm humble, I'm modest. I hear very good things, but I don't pay attention to them. It's difficult to read. I'd be definitely gracious in defeat and humble in victory."

The election is by secret ballot, with 110 members eligible to vote in the first round. Until a candidate achieves a majority, the low vote-getter is eliminated after each round.

Some members have suggested that Rogge could win in the first or second round. He has large support in Europe, which has 57 members.

The winner will be announced at the Hall of Columns, where Samaranch was installed in 1980. The hall, near Red Square, is where Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko laid in state.

The 70-year-old Kim was given a severe warning in 1999 after an internal IOC inquiry into the Salt Lake City vote-buying scandal. His son was accused of accepting a sham job funded by bid committee officials. Kim denied any wrongdoing.

The ethics commission, set up in the wake of the Salt Lake case, said Sunday it received a letter from an unidentified member concerned by news reports that Kim was offering minimum annual payments of $50,000 for work-related expenses.

The panel said such a promise would violate election campaign rules. But the commission said it considered the case closed after receiving a letter from Kim in which he attached a copy of his confidential election program and stated, "I never proposed any figure in this matter."

By tradition, IOC members are volunteers. They receive no salary but get travel, hotel and per diem expenses when attending Olympic meetings.

Pound described Kim's offer as an affront to members and "totally contrary to any tradition we have as a volunteer organization."

But Kim said he never suggested members receive a salary, only legitimate office expenses.

"IOC members must be granted the status and privilege they deserve," he said. "The IOC will provide members with the logistic support required to fulfill their mission and maintain their prestige. That's all I'm saying. The IOC will grant members financial support for office expenses. Somebody is exploiting this."

Kim said the controversy would not damage his chances.

"I've always said people have to judge me on what I have done for Olympics, sports and helping others," he said.

But the timing could not have been worse.

"I think it does nothing to promote his candidature, the fact that the ethics commission has his case," said Norwegian member Johann Olav Koss, the former speedskating champion. "I think it hurts it."

Asked what he would think if someone offered him $50,000 in expenses, he said, "I think that would be an inappropriate approach."

Salt Lake City organizing committee chief Mitt Romney offered a diplomatic judgment.

"If it's a salary, it's a decidedly bad idea," he said. "If it's reimbursement or an advance for valid expenses, then it's appropriate."