(For our Highlights of the weekend’s major competitions, click here)
The Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. was hardly joyful in the Olympic Movement, as the top two executives of the 2016 Olympic organizing effort in Rio de Janeiro received long prison terms for corruption, followed by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne officially removing riding from the event over the howls of its highest-profile athletes.
But this is not the end of either story.
On Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Seventh Federal Criminal Court Judge Marcelo Bretas announced sentence for former Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman, 79, to 30 years, 11 months in prison for bribery in connection with the IOC’s selection of Rio in 2009. The Rio 2016 Director General, Leonardo Gryner, was sentenced to 13 years, 10 months and former Rio de Janeiro State Governor Sergio Cabral, 58, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months, in addition to prior convictions for kickbacks during his term for which he was sentenced to a total of more than 59 years imprisonment.
Wrote Bretas (computer translation of the original Portuguese): “The reasons that led CARLOS NUZMAN to criminal practice are highly reprehensible, having revealed himself to be a greedy person and that, despite having full knowledge of the criminal nature of his activities and the seriousness of his acts, used his public function to commit crimes.”
The 2009 vote-buying scheme for Rio came from concerns that despite having a strong bid and offering the opportunity for the Games to be held in South America for the first time, the Brazilians were very worried about being eliminated in the first round with votes scattered among other strong bids from Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid.
So, Nuzman – a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2000 and the then-President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee – engineered a deal with fellow IOC member Lamine Diack of Senegal, the then-President of the international track & field federation (IAAF). Cabral described the arrangement as a $1.5 million payment to Diack for a guarantee of 5-6 votes from other IOC members.
The money came from Brazilian businessman Alberto Soares and was transferred to a company controlled by Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack. Another $500,000 was added from a Brazilian foreign exchange broker named Willy Kraus, to secure three more votes to assure Rio’s advancement to the second round of voting.
At the IOC Session in Copenhagen in 2009, Madrid led the first round of voting with 28, followed by Rio (26), Tokyo (22) and then Chicago (18), which was eliminated. The bribes worked. Rio zoomed to the lead in the second round, 46-29-20 over Madrid and Tokyo, then 66-32 in the final round over Madrid to get the 2016 Games.
The case broke open in 2017 and Nuzman, Gryner and Cabral were all charged then. Proceedings against Soares and both Diacks were not possible since they lived outside Brazilian jurisdiction.
Nuzman’s attorney, Joao Francisco Neto, indicated an immediate appeal of the sentence and told news media (computer translation from the original Portuguese): “The judge sentenced him for sport, without evidence. Nuzman will certainly be acquitted. The courts of the Republic will not honor this unspeakable legal violence.” Nuzman, formally convicted of corruption, criminal organization, money laundering and tax evasion, has been released during the term of the appeal.
It’s another black eye for the Rio 2016 Games, which endured endless controversies and ran out of money at the end. The organizing committee was so broke after the Games that it is the only one never to have submitted a final report of the event.
The International Olympic Committee is also, of course, embarrassed by the case and will now have to investigate the bribery issues itself. A French proceeding against Lamine Diack related to the Rio bribes is still pending. There are likely to be more repercussions.
The revelations of the Nuzman case are a sad chapter in the Rio 2016 saga, and came just 11 years after the Salt Lake City bid scandal related to the 2002 Winter Games bid came to light.
The sadness around the Rio 2016 corruption cases is in contrast to outright anger over the removal of riding as a discipline in the Modern Pentathlon.
On Saturday, at the online 71st UIPM Congress, the motion of the German national federation to remove riding from the sport was passed by 66-15, despite a desperate campaign from a large group of the top current pentathletes. The federation’s announcement included:
“The delegates voted 81% in favour of ratifying the UIPM Executive Board’s historic decision to open a ‘5th Discipline’ consultation process, announced on November 4, to propose to the IOC a format for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games with a new 5th Discipline, to be determined by the UIPM. The aim of this ongoing process is to evaluate alternative disciplines to Riding with a view to adding a new discipline to Modern Pentathlon after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“The ratification of Congress enables stakeholders to continue the 5th Discipline consultation process with the official backing of the global community. UIPM has submitted a provisional proposal for Los Angeles 2028 for consideration by the IOC Programme Commission at its upcoming meeting on December 1. Once the 5th Discipline consultation is complete, the UIPM community will have the final say on the proposed new composition of the sport with a vote during the 72nd UIPM Congress in 2022.”
Said UIPM President Klaus Schormann (GER):
“The high majority in favour of this decision gives us a very comfortable feeling and confirms that the UIPM EB acted in the interest of the UIPM family. The debate was fair, open and very clear. Delegates were given the opportunity to speak in chronological order according to a queue system, with no preferential treatment and full transparency.”
Using the Twitter name Pentathlon United, a furious campaign against the proposal included a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach (GER), signed by reigning Olympic Champions Joseph Choong and Kate French (both GBR) and a total of 46 Olympic medal winners as far back as 1960. After the Congress vote, the group tweeted:
“UIPM congress: The UIPM stifled debate, avoided questions being asked, discussion being had or criticism being heard. The UIPM demonstrated extremely poor governance, not befitting an Olympic sport. This was a shameful day for sport. Not just for modern pentathlon, for all sport.
“We doubt any IF, and the bar is very low, has ever been so bad or faced such a revolt from its community. The UIPM does not have a mandate. Not in our name.”
On Sunday, the InsideTheGames site reported that the national pentathlon federations of Denmark, Finland and Sweden wrote a joint letter to the UIPM complaining of the procedures used during the Congress, including:
“They have ignored and over-ridden the views of the overwhelming majority of the global modern pentathlon community, and the athletes they are supposed to serve.
“The President and secretary general have stifled debate at this Congress, using their control of Zoom to avoid questions being asked, discussion being had or criticism being heard.”
Against all this, the Danish national federation has already filed against the UIPM in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, insisting that the UIPM acted improperly in the development of the motion to remove riding.
At the same Congress, Schormann was elected for an eighth term as President by 72-12, running unopposed. American John Helmick was re-elected as Treasurer, also running unopposed. But there is opposition now from the athlete community, a negative for any sport on today’s Olympic program.
This isn’t over; it’s only starting.
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