WMU News

WMU expert on Olympics says gift giving, bribery nothing new

January 22, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Rampant commercialism is the name of the game when it comes to the Olympics. So it should be no surprise that a bribery scandal has erupted over siting the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

That's the opinion of Dr. Lewis H. Carlson, a Western Michigan University professor of history and co-author of the award-winning book "Tales of Gold: An Oral History of the Olympic Games Told by America's Gold Medal Winners." The book was named 1988 Olympic Book of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee for its in-depth look at 59 American Gold Medal winners.

"It's not simply the cities bribing," says Carlson, who has been watching economic changes to the games for a number of years. "Everything is sold. I could not write a book and put the word Olympic in the title without jeopardizing myself in a lawsuit because the International Olympic Committee thinks it has control.

"Everything is sold. The city gets to sell things, the teams get to sell things, the participants get to sell things, the IOC gets to sell. On every level, we're simply selling. And when that's involved, it should come as no surprise that corruption is right along with it."

Carlson, whose specialty is the Summer Games, says the Olympics have been bought and sold for years, starting with the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Rampant commercialism and corporate influence through television deals and sponsorships soared after the 1976 games in Montreal lost huge amounts of money.

"1984 LA was the watershed," Carlson says. "Peter Ueberroth came up and simply sold the games like deodorant. And LA made a lot of money."

Media: For additional comments or an interview with Carlson, call 616 252-2254. Carlson's comments also may be heard on Western Michigan University's newsline, a radio service produced by the Office of Marketing, Public Relations and Communications. To access the newsline, call the toll-free number (888) WMU-NEWS. Follow the prompt and press (2) to access Carlson's interview.

For further questions or information, call Marie Lee, Cheryl Roland or Mark Schwerin, in the Office of Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, at 616 387-8400.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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