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  • Olympic Newsdesk -- Winter Youth Olympics Leadership Upheaval; Pechstein Denies Doping


    Christoph Platzgummer, Innsbruck's chief organizer for the UEFA EURO 2008, with UEFA President Michel Platini, and other Austrian officials in the build-up to Euro 2008. The city recorded a $1.7 million loss from the tournament. (Getty Images)
    The organization of the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympics has been thrown into chaos. The organizing committee’s top two leaders were forced out amid a row over their part in the Austrian city’s loss-making role in the UEFA Euro 2008 football championships.

    Christoph Platzgummer, president of Innsbruck 2012, and CEO Martin Schnitzer quit their roles on the organizing body in the wake of revelations in Austrian media, that Innsbruck’s Fan Parks for the UEFA tournament clocked up a $1.7 million loss for the city.

    Platzgummer was the city’s vice mayor and a former coordinator for Innsbruck at Euro 2008, while Schnitzer served as secretary general of Innsbruck and helped organize the city’s part in the football competition.

    Around the Rings understands that further pressure mounted on the pair to step down amid concerns over raising the $21 million needed to stage the first ever winter YOG. The city, state and federal governments have given financial guarantees to deliver $13 million, leaving $8 million needed from the private sector. But no sponsors have been signed up less than three years out from the Games, an issue apparently spurring the decision to replace the YOG leadership.

    Schnitzer, who headed the 2012 bid, was only confirmed as CEO in February. His appointment came two months after the IOC awarded the inaugural winter YOG to the city which hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Games.

    An interim management board is now installed to steer the YOG 2012 organizing committee forward while the search for a new CEO takes place. The city’s mayor Hilde Zach replaces Platzgummer as president of Innsbruck 2012. The interim CEOs are Peter Bayer, director for marketing, events and innovation, and Jürgen Steinberger, director for finance and communications.

    The IOC told ATR it had been informed of Schnitzer’s departure “and the IOC has received assurances from the relevant local authorities that the preparation for the event will not be affected.”

    Zach insisted Bayer and Steinberger were suitably qualified to lead the 2012 YOG preparations. “This ensures that the preparation of the Games continues in a professional and competent way," says Zach.

    The government member for commerce in the Austrian state of Tyrol, Patrizia Zoller-Frischauf, said she had full confidence in the interim CEOs. “With this decision, the Innsbruck 2012 organizing committee is well prepared for this transitional phase and we will not waste time,” she vowed.

    A new CEO for the organizing committee is expected to be in place by September.

    Austrian Olympic Committee president and IOC member Leo Wallner thanked Schnitzer for his work on the YOG project.

    “His international links, his expertise and his language skills had contributed a lot to the successful bidding,” he said.

    The IOC Coordination Commission for YOG 2012 led by Gian-Franco Kasper will be hoping for Innsbruck can quickly bounce back from the double blow of losing its senior officials to maintain the pace of fast-track preparations for the Games. The commission is scheduled to visit for an update on all aspects of YOG plans on Oct. 20-21

    Innsbruck 2012 spokesman Hannes Maschkan tells ATR that preparations “are going very well”. He said the sports program for the Games will shortly be finalized with the winter international federations and IOC. Talks with sponsors are also ongoing, he added.

    Pechstein Denies Blood Doping
    Claudia Pechstein says she is innocent of doping charges. (Getty Images)

    Five time Olympic speedskating champion Claudia Pechstein is lashing out at the International Skating Union for her two-year ban for doping.

    "There will be no blood bags and no syringes. There will be no other indications which will support the prodigious insinuation of the ISU. Why I am sure so? Quite simply because I am innocent and have not doped," Pechstein wrote on her website.

    She claims the ISU offered her a deal to withdraw from the February skating world championships with an “illness” in exchange tor burying the doping case.

    However, ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta rejected the allegation on Tuesday saying "it is not correct to accuse us of making a deal."

    Pechstein will appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    Jackson Memorial Bigger than Olympics

    Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger says the Michael Jackson memorial service will be the biggest event for the police force ever—overshadowing the 1984 Olympics.

    Paysinger told members of the force that previous events in the city "pale in comparison to what we have assembled today” for the Jackson memorial. 3200 cops will patrol the memorial service.

    "Literally, the eyes of the entire world will be on this place" the chief was quoted as saying.

    Olympian Jailed on Drug Charges

    U.S. figure skating Olympian Nicole Bobek is fighting charges she was involved in a methamphetamine drug ring in New Jersey.

    "She played a significant role in this operation," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio. "She was actively involved in the upper echelon of this ring."

    Bobek, 31, skated at the Nagano Olympics where she finished 17th. In 1995 she was the U.S. figure skating champion.

    If convicted, Bobek could spend 10 years in prison. She made her first court appearance Monday and is being held in jail until she posts a $200,000 bail.

    Written by Mark Bisson and Ed Hula III.

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