Former sports boss dishes dirt on Games

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 2009, 12:00am

The explosive memoirs of a former sports minister have lifted the veil on the mainland's secretive state sports community. In the book, he accuses accuse a senior Chinese International Olympic Committee member of potentially jeopardising the success of the Beijing Olympics.

Yuan Weimin, who served as the top sports official between 2000 and 2004, says that in the 2001 IOC presidential election - just after the 2008 Games were awarded to Beijing - a 'veteran IOC member' voted for South Korean Kim Un-yong rather than eventual winner Dr Jacques Rogge, from Belgium.

This was a surprise move, as Rogge had supported Beijing's bid for the Games and expected China's officials to return the favour.

Yuan says the troublemaker wrote a book titled The Road of the Five Rings and was considered the 'Godfather' of the Olympic movement in contemporary China. This means he is referring to He Zhenliang, who has just retired after 28 years with the IOC - including 24 years on its executive committee, the effective ruling body. The 80-year-old played a key role in Beijing's bids in 1993 and 2001, and was considered the driving force on the latter occasion. The Road of the Five Rings was the title of He's 2007 autobiography.

China decided in 2001 to throw its support behind then European Olympic Committee chief Rogge, who was re-elected to a second term at the helm of the IOC last week, in exchange for Europe's blessing for Beijing's Olympic bid. But after Beijing's name was called on July 13, 2001, at an IOC gathering in Moscow, He lobbied and voted for Kim in the presidential ballot. The other two Chinese IOC members voted for Rogge.

'I was very angry at that moment and thought this could hurt our credibility internationally,' Yuan writes.

He accuses He of disobeying Beijing's 'great plan' and writes that He clearly understood that casting his vote for the Korean this was not conducive to Beijing's strategy. 'Why did he do this? I don't understand his agenda,' Yuan writes.

Yuan immediately filed a complaint to Liu Qi, Beijing's party boss and head of the organising committee, and Liu shared his anger and confusion, Yuan writes.

Yuan's allegations were denied by He, who told the Chengdu Business Daily on Wednesday: 'History is about facts, not distortion and fabrication. The IOC presidential election was an anonymous vote and nobody knew who I voted for.'

Kim was forced to quit the IOC in 2004 on corruption charges and was jailed by a South Korean court.

Mainland officials, particularly those from the isolated sports bureaucracies whose members are mostly retired coaches and athletes, rarely take their disputes into the public sphere even long after they have occurred. But Yuan, a former national women's volleyball coach with five major titles including a gold at the 1984 Olympics, appears to have deviated from the tradition.

His book, Yuan Weimin's Sporting Ups and Downs, reached bookstores last weekend. It also gives an insight into the last-minute withdrawal of China's best long-distance runners at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and discusses accusations that taxpayers' money was misused in preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

Yuan confirms that several runners under tainted coach Ma Junren pulled out of the Sydney Games after failing drug tests. The runners' withdrawal prompted speculation over cheating at a time when the nation's sporting credibility was on the line due to a string of positive drug tests among swimmers.

Yuan defends himself over the accusation that Olympic funds were misused in 2004. He said the 109 million yuan spent on apartments for sports staff was mainly leftover prize money won by athletes over the previous decade.