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  • Report Alleges Secret Lobbying Around PyeongChang Bid


    (ATR) South Korea is prosecuting a second former president this year for corruption, bringing renewed scrutiny to how the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics were won.

    Screen shot of confidential list of IOC members to be contacted by Papa Massata Diack. (SBS)
    A report from Korean broadcaster SBS says emails in the investigation into former South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak show a political deal and hidden sports marketing contracts aimed at helping PyeongChang win the 2018 Games.

    Lee has been charged in South Korea with corruption during his term as president. He led South Korea from 2008 to 2013, during which time PyeongChang was awarded the Winter Olympics.

    The report alleges that after Lee pardoned Samsung chairman, and IOC member, Lee Kun-Hee in December 2009, the company worked to secure votes from IOC members. In the 2018 Winter Olympics bid race, PyeongChang was bidding for the third straight cycle. The Korean city had lost to Vancouver for the 2010 Games and Sochi for the 2014 Olympics.

    Samsung is an IOC TOP Sponsor, meaning it could not lobby on behalf of any city bidding for the Games, even a South Korean one.

    SBS’s report alleges that Samsung compiled a list of 27 IOC members with Papa Massata Diack, the son of then influential IOC member Lamine Diack. At the time Papa Diack worked as a marketing consultant for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), while Lamine was president.

    Included in the list according to the report were 12 African IOC members, along with others. The list alleges if the French bid for the 2018 Games were to lose, there would be other members who would shift votes to PyeongChang. Annecy, the French bid, lost in the first round of voting at the 2011 IOC Session.

    An IOC spokesperson who had seen the reports in Korean says the language barrier made it hard to provide an immediate response.

    Included in the investigation are emails between Samsung executives under Lee and Papa Diack about sponsorship for marquee IAAF events. Samsung was the title sponsor of the IAAF Diamond League in 2010 and 2011 during the bid race for PyeongChang. In some emails a commission was discussed as part of the sponsorship agreements.

    PyeongChang 2018 would be the third time the Diacks were named in allegations of corruption in the awarding of an Olympic Games. An ongoing investigation into vote-buying at the 2009 IOC Session has reached the Diacks, former Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman, and Brazilian politicians and businessmen. The investigation, led by Brazilian and French authorities has also looked into whether corruption ahead of the 2013 IOC Session occurred, where Tokyo 2020 prevailed.

    SBS said in its reporting that the emails were discovered during the ongoing corruption investigation into former president Lee, who made winning the Olympics a key priority in his administration. It is unclear if the lobbying broke South Korean law, or if it is being investigated by the French authorities. Lee Kun-Hee stepped down as an IOC member in 2017 after a heart attack in 2014 forced him to step down as Samsung chairman.

    Samsung’s full involvement in the 2018 bid race is still yet to be seen. The company is still recovering from a scandal where the company’s head was found to have paid bribes to the previous presidential administration. Chairman Jay Lee served around a year in prison before being pardoned on the eve of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    The eight part investigation into PyeongChang 2018 can be watched here.

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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