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  • Friday, June 18, 1999

    Six cities make final bid for 2006 Olympics

     SEOUL (AP) -- With films, celebrities and impassioned entreaties, six European cities took their best shots today at winning the 2006 Winter Olympics.
     The winner will be selected Saturday by secret ballot among International Olympic Committee members after a 15-member committee narrows the bidders down to two finalists.
     It will be the first site selection since the Salt Lake City vote-buying scandal broke six months ago, plunging the IOC into the worst crisis of its 105-year history.
     Salt Lake City won the 2002 Games in a landslide in 1995, but it has been disclosed that the bid committee spent more than $1 million in cash, gifts and other inducements for IOC members.
     After that came to light, 10 IOC members were expelled or resigned, the two top officials of the Salt Lake organizing committee were ousted, and state and federal agencies began an ongoing investigation of the affair.
     The scandal also brought a change in IOC rules that prevented members from visiting or having virtually any contact with the would-be host cities -- Helsinki, Finland; Klagenfurt, Austria; Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia; Turin, Italy; Sion, Switzerland; and Zakopane, Poland.
     That might give an edge to Sion, which played host to more than 60 IOC members in an unsuccessful attempt to win the 2002 Games. Sion backers say they have improved their bid this time.
     But Sion might also have a handicap -- resentment by some IOC members over the role of Switzerland's Marc Hodler in blowing the whistle on Olympic corruption last December.
     Penalized by the rules change in January that prevented visits by IOC members, the cities resorted instead to mailing brochures and video cassettes.
     Today they each made one final pitch in hour-long presentations to the 89 members attending the 109th general assembly of the IOC in South Korea's capital.
     Klagenfurt opened with a challenge to the IOC to "make history" by holding the 2002 Games in three nations that were traditional enemies.
     Klagenfurt would conduct the games at venues in Austria, Slovenia and Italy.
     Zakopane introduced a touch of humour. Its presentation featured a performer who used putty, a sock, bread rolls and a hot water bottle to turn himself into a caricature of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
     The assembly didn't know how to react, but broke into laughs when the performer used a makeup sponge, a stocking and pantyhose to turn himself into a likeness of former Polish sprinter Irena Szewinska, one of Zakopane's delegates.
     Then Szewinska took the lectern and told the delegates: "We Poles, we like to make jokes, but our bid is absolutely serious, as serious as our sport achievement."
     Helsinki, which lacks mountains high enough for Alpine events and proposes to share the games with Lillehammer, Norway, was making its sixth bid for the Winter Games. Its organizing chief, Martin Saarikangas, pleaded with the delegates to finally reward the Finnish city.
     Questions have been raised about the three-hour travel time by air and rail between Helsinki and Lillehammer, but Saarikangas said the "distance is great only if you intend to walk."
     Poprad-Tatry's presentation, like that of every other city, featured a film displaying the city and the region's cultural, historic and scenic highlights.
     Poprad likened itself to Seoul in 1988, when the Summer Games provided South Korea a chance to show the world that it had escaped poverty in the wake of the Korean War and become an industrial giant.
     The presentations by Turin and Sion were slick and professional. But they contrasted sharply in acknowledgments by the leaders of their bid committees.
     Evelina Christillin, executive president of Turin's committee, proudly introduced the three IOC members sitting with her at the head table.
     But Adolf Ogi, the vice president of Switzerland and president of its bid committee, pointedly did not introduce the three IOC members accompanying him, including Hodler.
     Both Sion and Turin showcased well-known athletes -- tennis star Martina Hingis of Switzerland appearing on film, and three-time Olympic skiing gold medallist Alberto Tomba of Italy in person.

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