Though we are now much closer to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo than we are the Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, chaos still dominates the Brazilian city and its administrators.
On Thursday, former Governor of Rio de Janeiro Sergio Cabral testified that up to nine members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were involved in a $2 million bribery scandal to bring the 2016 Olympics to Rio. Cabral, who is currently serving a 200-year prison sentence for fraud and corruption, much of which is related to the 2016 Olympic Games, named 9-time Olympic medalist swimmer Alexander Popov and famed Ukranian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka among the IOC members bribed to vote in favor of awarding the 2016 Summer Games to Rio. Popov and Bubka both immediately denied the accusations.
Popov said that he never had contact with others named in the bribery scheme, including Lamine Diack, Papa Massata Diack, and Frankie Fredericks, reports The New York Times. “I have to admit that I am extremely surprised at the appearance of such information with the illegal use of my name,” Popov said in a message to The Times. Popov additionally claims that he did not even vote for Rio as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games in any of the 3 rounds.
The IOC responded to the accusations against Popov and Bubka with the following statement:
“The IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer (CECO) has immediately followed up on the allegations made by the former Rio State Governor Sergio Cabral, who is already serving a jail term for corruption. The CECO has contacted the IOC Members mentioned in his testimony. The IOC is fully committed to address any issues also those which happened before the far reaching reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020. With these reforms the IOC has turned the page with regard to good governance and in particular the procedure of the election of host cities.”
In October of 2017, former President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Carlos Nuzman was charged with corruption for his role in helping orchestrate the bribes.
The $2 million USD was allegedly provided by Brazilian tycoon Arthur César de Menezes Soares Filho, also known as “King Arthur.” In a 2018 plea deal, Brazilian economist Carlos Emanuel Miranda told prosecutors that he “managed” a payment of $2 million USD or more to Papa Massata Diack to secure four votes for the Rio 2016 Olympic bid in 2009. The money was transferred from an account controlled by Soares Filho to Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, former President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), who then distributed the funds to the others to sway into voting for Rio 2016. The money was transferred from Soares’s British Virgin Islands-based account to a French account controlled by Papa Diack.
Frankie Fredericks, a former Namibian sprinter, was charged by French authorities in 2018 for his role in the scandal and receiving money to vote in favor of giving the 2016 Games to Rio. Shortly before the IOC awarded the 2016 Summer Games to Rio in October 2009, Yemi Limited, a company linked to Fredericks, received payments from Pamodzi Consulting, an offshore company once owned by Papa Diack. Yemi Limited, which is domiciled in Seychelles, an African island nation known internationally as a tax haven, was transferred $300,000 in order to secure Fredericks’s vote for Rio 2016 in 2009.
Fredericks and the Diacks both deny having any involvement in the effort to pay for votes to bring the Olympics to Brazil.