London 2012

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London 2012

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

It was a dramatic moment yesterday in Singapore. Representatives from the five countries who have been working tirelessly for years now in the hopes of being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games stood holding their breath as the International Olympic Committee President coaxed the final word out of an envelope-- with fanfare and a dramatic pause. &quotThe; host city for the 2012 Olympic Games will be.....London!" The simultaneous broadcast made for a frenzied burst of celebration back at Trafalgar Square, just 24 hours before the tragic bombings of today. But yesterday there was euphoria in London--and heartache in Paris, Moscow, Madrid and New York.

Olympic cities rarely make money, but they earn a special place on the map. Just ask the folks from the Salt Lake City organizing committee who bribed their way into hosting the Winter Games of 2002. For literally decades, the good people of Salt Lake tried to bring Olympic honor to their winter playground. And they finally learned the age-old trick of winning the bidding war and dived into the dishonor of giving IOC members under-the-table college scholarships for their children, surgeries for their cousins, jewels for their spouses, and huge lumps of outright cash.

Then the story broke. And it was easy for us reporters to then track back and piece together the long history of IOC members accepting bribes from bidding host cities.

My favorite was a seemingly small bribe. Nothing like open heart surgery. But it was a significant bribe nonetheless. The final two cities under consideration for the summer Games 1996 were Athens and Atlanta. Athens was the sentimental favorite as '96 would be the 100-year anniversary of the first modern Games in Athens. But Atlanta had a lot of financial muscle behind its bid-and an attractive US time zone for television. So, as was the custom, the IOC had been lavishly feted in Athens. Sailing around the Greek islands. That sort of thing. And they had had a whopping good time in Atlanta as well. The Cuban IOC delegate at the time was an elderly gentleman and a powerful influence for the Latin American and South American vote. He spent two weeks in Atlanta, playing golf at the storied Masters Course in Augusta, deep sea fishing off the coast of South Carolina. On his way to the airport, he stopped by Billy Payne-s office, Payne the chief of the Atlanta bid committee. Payne had gone to the University of Georgia and had bull dog memorabilia all over his office. Mugs, rugs, flags, plaques. Stuffed bull dogs on his desk. The Cuban says to Payne &quotMy; God I love this kind dog. We cannot get in Cuba. My grandchildren would die if I could bring them one of these kind dogs." The Cuban left Payne a quality Havana cigar and headed to the airport. Payne worked the phone. He bought two puppy bull dogs. With connections in high-end places, he cleared the dogs through both customs and quarantine. He gets to the airport, a puppy under each arm, and finds the Cuban at his gate. The Cuban is Latino and emotional. He tears up and says &quotYou; do this for me? You do this for my grandchildren? I will NEVER forget you."

And Billy Payne turns on the Southern charm and touches the Cuban-s arm, to say &quotJust; don-t forget me when the vote comes around next week for the 1996 city."

Well, the vote was very close and Atlanta beat Athens, with heavy support coming out of Latin and South America.

Since Salt Lake City, the IOC has policed itself and no longer swoops en masse into a bidding city. Now the city VIP-s travel to the IOC members and the wining and dining is dripping with as much of the bribery nectar as when it was the other way around.

Yesterday in Singapore, Hilary Clinton and Mohammed Ali were talking up New York, President Jacques Chirac was lobbying for Paris, Prime Minister Tony Blair booming the praises of London. In the end, the five cities spent the most ever by a group of bid cities, $150 million, to woo the IOC.

Frankly, I liked the bribery better when it was the IOC members doing the traveling. How else are you going to get a story like that Cuban and the two bull dogs?

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.



Diana Nyad