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    Wednesday, January 7, 1998

    Top snowboarder boycotts Olympics to protest IOC

     OSLO, Norway (AP) -- World champion snowboarder Terje Haakonsen will boycott the Winter Olympics, claiming the International Olympic Committee is the equivalent of the Mafia, newspapers said today.
     The decision disappoints many snowboarders excited about the sport's debut in the Olympics. Haakonsen is known as "The Legend" and some rivals have said that winning a gold medal without having to beat him wouldn't be an ultimate victory.
     But Haakonsen, true to the rebel image that many snowboarders cultivate, is fiercely critical of the IOC.
     "When I say Mafia, I mean what most people see in the word: people who take over control but never let anyone have an inside look at what they are doing," Haakonsen said in an interview with Sweden's TV4 in December.
     Haakonsen is a three-time half-pipe world champion of the IFS, the snowboarding federation that did much to build up the sport.
     He says the IOC was wrong to have the international skiing federation FIS organize snowboarding as an Olympic event.
     To qualify for the Olympics, Haakonsen would have to compete in at least one FIS event, which he refuses to do.
     Norwegian IOC member Jan Staubo told newspapers that "Haakonsen's 'no' has no importance to the Olympic idea."
     Haakonsen, like many Norwegians, claims the IOC is too secretive, lacks democracy, and pampers members.
     "The fact is that the bigwigs ride in limousines, and stay in fancy hotels while the athletes lives in barracks in the woods," the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang quotes Haakonsen as saying.
     "I'm basically not saying anything more than Vegard Ulvang did before the Olympics in Lillehammer," he said.
     Just before the 1994 Winter Olympics opened in Lillehammer, Norway's champion Nordic skier Ulvang accused the IOC of being undemocratic.
     He also said IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch's links to the former regime of Gen. Francisco Franco in Spain were "bad and may not be worthy of a sports movement."