POSTED: September 2nd 2009

Bid cash row threatens Austrian IOC member

Leo Wallner at the Beijing Olympics / Image: Johannes Kernmayer
Leo Wallner at the Beijing Olympics / Image: Johannes Kernmayer

KEIR RADNEDGE & LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/TAMPA: The Olympic host bidding system is bound to come under renewed scrutiny as a financial scandal unfolds in Austria around Leo Wallner – an IOC member who is the country’s national Olympic committee president.

At the heart of the storm are questions over how the ÖOC administered its funds in supporting Salzburg’s ultimately vain candidacy to host the 2014 Winter Games. It not only lost out to Sochi but was eliminated in the first round of voting by the Russian Black Sea resort and Pyeong-Chang (South Korea).

Initial concerns focused on the role of Heinz Jungwirth who resigned in February as long-serving secretary-general of the ÖOC. Now 73-year-old Wallner is under pressure to follow suit, accused of failing to monitor properly a campaign in which lobbyist Erwin Roth was paid more than €1m.

Wallner has been president of the ÖOC for 19 years, joined the IOC finance commission in 2000, the audit commission in 2006 and the ethics commission earlier this year.

The 73-year-old’s business career has included posts as economic adviser to the prime minister, president of the board of Casinos Austria International holding and president of the management board of the Austrian lotteries (1986-2007).

Sports Minister Norbert Darabos has demanded a “generation change" at the head of the OOC while Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden has urged that everyone responsible for misuse of ÖOC funds be held accountable.

Wallner has so far refused to bow to pressure to resign as ÖOC president. He said: “It is not my style to flee. I assume I will still be in office in December."

Jungwirth, Roth and three other people have been under investigation for alleged misue of funds since mid-February. No decision on a prosecution has been made.

On Monday the ÖOC decided to register an official complaint against Jungwirth while Wallner, later, spoke of “gross deceptions" which needed clarifying by prosecutors.

The Austrian media has focused on a reported total of €1.2m in payments to Roth. Wallner has denied knowledge of the size of such payments. However Roth ‘went public’ in an interview with Die Presse in which he said his company received €90,000 per month for 13 months for bid work. Both Roth and Jungwirth have insisted the money was for bid expenditure not personal income.

Given Wallner’s status within the IOC, it is inevitable that the issues raised – over bid system controls and costs - will be perceived as more than just a little local difficulty.

Keywords · Austrian Olympic Committee · Salzburg 2014 · Wallner · Erwin Roth · Jungwirth · IOC · Sochi

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