Stockholm, Cape Town Accused of IOC Gifts

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Olympic chiefs have accused Stockholm and Cape Town, two of the cities bidding to host the 2004 Olympics, of breaking their rules by offering gifts to officials who vote on the venue of the Games.

A senior International Olympic Committee, or IOC, member said Tuesday that the IOC had warned both cities about Olympic rules in letters sent just days before the IOC votes on the venue of the Games in Lausanne on Friday.

Stockholm has been accused of offering free furniture to IOC members while Cape Town has allegedly offered the wives of IOC officials free trips to Switzerland for the vote.

Both the Swedish and South African bidding committees immediately denied that they had offered bribes to members.

But the senior IOC member, who did not want to be identified, said: "IOC vice president Marc Hodler has sent a letter to the two cities warning them about IOC rules."

IOC Director General Fran?ois Carrard later confirmed that the IOC was investigating the activities of Cape Town.

"We are presently investigating this matter and we expect to have an answer from the National Olympic Committee of South Africa," he said.

Athens, Rome and Buenos Aires are also bidding to stage the Games.

Stockholm officials confirmed they had received a letter from the IOC about the furniture but denied they had tried to bribe members.

Stockholm bid spokesman Finn Persson said the bid had offered help to members to arrange the transport of furniture from IKEA, one of the world's leading furniture firms. But the Swedes said they did not offer to pay for the goods or the transport.

"The last thing we would do is try to bribe them in a thing like this," Persson said. "This has been misunderstood. The only thing we said was that we could put them in touch with the right people to help them with the transport."

Backers of Cape Town's bid for the 2004 Olympics insisted Wednesday they had done nothing wrong by offering free flights to Switzerland for the wives of African IOC members.

Kurt Hipper, treasurer of the National Olympic Committee of South Africa, or NOCSA, acknowledged the IOC had sent a letter asking for clarification of the offer.

"This was not a secret,'' he said. "We see this as reiterating our bid as being an African bid and we are working as a team. NOCSA has reiterated this invitation was just part of its intention to confirm African solidarity with the bid.''

Hipper said NOCSA sent letters to 19 African IOC members offering to pay for first-class air tickets for their wives to travel to Switzerland. He said only three or four accepted the offer.