Kasper defends claim that one-third of multi-billion dollar Sochi 2014 budget disappeared because of corruption
Sunday, 12 January 2014
January 12 - Influential International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Gian Franco Kasper has defended his controversial comments that a third of budget has disappeared in bribes during preparations for Sochi 2014.
Kasper, long-time President of the International Ski Federation (FIS), told Switzerland's state broadcaster SRF that Sochi 2014 had been riddled with corruption since they were awarded the Winter Olympics and Paralympics by the IOC seven years ago.
The 69-year-old from St Moritz claimed contracts were given to a "construction mafia" of businessmen closely linked to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The contracts were given to people who already had a foot in the door," Kasper said in an interview broadcast by the Rundschau news magazine.
"We know it."
Kasper had taken over in 1998 as President of the FIS from Marc Hodler, who had exposed the Olympic bid scandal for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Hodler, who was head of the IOC Coordination Commission overseeing preparations for Salt Lake City 2002, announced several members of the IOC had taken bribes to vote for the American city.
Following an investigation, ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten sanctioned
Kasper, however, admitted the figure he quoted is "what everybody says in Russia" and is not based on inside knowledge or evidence.
He also claimed the money disappearing for corrupt reasons was from Russian sources, and not belonging to the IOC or its commercial partners.
The Games are reportedly costing a record $51 billion (£31 billion/€37 billion) in sports and infrastructure projects.
"One-third is disappearing," Kasper, a member of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, told Associated Press.
"It's not only in Russia that, in certain businesses, there is always a part disappearing."
Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian Deputy Prime Minister-turned-Kremlin critic, alleged in a report released in May that up to $30 billion (£18 billion/€22 billion) has been stolen in the run-up to the Games.
Nemtsov welcomed Kasper's comments.
"Until now there's been no clear acknowledgement of the issue, even though the facts are widely available," he said.
"The attitude is that 'all is well' and if there's any corruption it's a problem for the host country and not the IOC.
"They are obliged to pay attention to this.
"Though there has been considerable attention to the issue of gay rights in advance of the Olympics, and the IOC has taken a stand on this, they have largely ignored corruption, environmental destruction, and other types of human rights violations that have been occurring,"
Kasper also accused Putin of staging a "PR stunt" by releasing several high-profile political prisoners like Pussy Riot singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and political critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky last month.
He also took a pessimistic view of the security measures for Sochi 2014 following recent terrorist attacks, claiming the need to deploy tens of thousands of police officers and troops to provide safety meant the region was "not in a great mood".
Kasper added: "The big thing with security for all events in the mountain area is that they [organisers] cut the number of spectators by almost 50 per cent in the past two years.
"That of course makes it very difficult and really does not help to create a special atmosphere."
He did admit, though, that the blanket security should ensure there will be no safety problems during the Games.
"I am convinced Sochi will be the safest place in the world during the Olympics," Kasper said.
"We know they [authorities] will be bureaucratic, not very flexible and then there is the language barrier.
"But we know that we need security.
"We know there is a terrorism problem not only in Russia but all over the world."
Kasper also claimed that the costs associated with Sochi 2014 could put off other countries from bidding for the Olympics in future.
"Those costs in Sochi are enormous and a bad example for future candidates," he said.
"Most nations cannot afford it.
"Switzerland, France could never afford such amounts.
"Particularly for Winter Games."
Kasper acknowledged, though, Sochi 2014 had made outstanding progress since they were awarded by the Games ahead of South Korea's Pyeongchang and Austrian city Salzburg.
"We have to see that what we did in the Alps, we needed 150 years, and they had to do it in five years," he said.
"If you see that then it shocks you."
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June 2013: Survey finds majority of Russians critical of Government spending on Sochi 2014
April 2013: Former Russian Olympic Committee vice-president claims he has been poisoned
March 2013: Fired Russian Olympic Committee vice-president suspected of misspending half-a-billion dollars
February 2013: Russian Olympic Committee vice-president fired by Putin over Sochi 2014 delays
January 2011: Sochi 2014 construction chief resigns amid allegations of corruption