More on Graft at the Olympics

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Following my last post, I thought I’d focus in on just one of the highest-profile individuals associated with  the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics bid. Dr Un Yong Kim (above, right), the then President of the World Taekwondo Federation, and the President of the American Sports University, who probably received as much negative press coverage as any of the several sports administrators caught up in the scandal.

The allegations against Kim were that in return for agreeing to back the Salt Lake bid he demanded a concert booking for his musician daughter Helen Kim; American visas for companies which had recorded his daughter’s music; a visa and a job for his son. The son, in order to avoid investigation, fled the US, and was eventually captured in Bulgaria , where he spent six months on remand (i.e. in prison), fighting extradition proceedings.

In 1999, Kim was investigated by the IOC for his part in the Salt Lake case, and warned, but not removed from the IOC executive.

Two years later, he ran for President of the International Olympic Committee (Samaranch’s old post), coming second to the eventual winner, today’s incumbent, Jacques Rogge.

The third-placed candidate, Dick Pound (the founding chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency), records in his memoir that two years after Kim’s election, Kim still had in hand $1.5 million, which he had raised for the IOC competition, but never spent. “Whatever the playing field we may have been on”, Pound concludes with some bitterness, “It was far from level”. (Dick Pound, Inside the Olympics (Montreal: Wiley, 2006 edn), p. 267).

In 2004, Kim was charged in the South Korean criminal courts with embezzlement, relating to taking several million dollars in funds from the Taekwondo Federation, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Kim was then re-investigated by the IOC, which recommended his expulsion in 2005. Kim resigned to pre-empt that sanction.

The extraordinary feature of his case was the initial stance of the Olympic ethics committee: not to punish Kim for corruption, but to treat him as too senior to challenge.

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