<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/59124558@N06/7600821418/” title=”GGD-00-183 Olympic Games: Federal Government Provides Significant Funding and Support by dengre.bj, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8421/7600821418_881f26b56e_z.jpg” width=”434″ height=”640″ alt=”GGD-00-183 Olympic Games: Federal Government Provides Significant Funding and Support”></a>
I lived in Athens, GA during the 1996 Games. There were some scandals, before, during and after the event, but nothing like the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. It was a scandalpalooza.
When you think about scandal and the Salt Lake games, most folks think about how Salt Lake “won” the Games. It turns out that bribes were involved. When the news broke in 1998 there was “outrage”. Investigations were launched. Careers were ruined and jobs were lost. The FBI spent more resources investigating the 2002 Olympics scandal than they spent investigating the Oklahoma City bombings and yet very little came of it–sure, there were a handful of convictions, but the two Leaders of the SLC Olympic Bid Team were acquitted of all charges in 2003.
Still, a scandal is a great opportunity to reshuffle the power cards when a grifter train like the Olympics is coming to town. Folks who were on the outside looking in could suddenly be in control–all they needed was a front man. Enter Mitt Romney.
The Games would go on with or with out Mitt. This was never in doubt. What was in doubt was who would profit and who would have the inside track. What was in doubt was how to rake in profits without having to make investments. What the grifters needed was a leverage artist. What they needed was Mitt. And Mitt delivered.
In the glare of the bidding scandal a thousand grift flowers bloomed. Mitt’s top priority as the new head of the SLC Games was to get US taxpayers to bail out the effort–he succeeded and then some. He spent almost $4 Million to lobby Congress and the Bush Administration to send him mountains of cash. Most of the lobbying fees ($2.65 Million) went to his in-house lobbying effort led by his now long-time staffer/co-grifter Cindy Gillespie (who played the same role with Mitt when he was Governor of Massachusetts). Mitt’s team of lobbyists went after every possible Federal dollar. The lobbying disclosure reports have them talking to everybody in the pursuit of Earmarks, favors and old-school appropriations. [You can look at these yourself. Go to the Senate’s lobbyist disclosure database / click on the checkbox for “client name” / type in “SALT LAKE ORGANIZING” and you have the forms–just click on them.]
When the dust settled, Mitt’s lobbying effort brought over $1.5 Billion to the SLC Games. In 2000 the GAO did an audit of US taxpayer support for Olympic Games in the country. Taxpayers spent $74,654,000 for the LA Games in 1984; and $608,512,000 for the 1996 in Atlanta. These were both summer Olympics and so you would expect them to cost more. But, the 2002 Winter Games in SLC blew the doors off the Treasury–taxpayers paid $1.5 Billion to bail out Mitt.
For the LA GAmes, taxpayers only paid for the Federal role during the games. In the Atlanta and SLC Games, taxpayers paid the most money to help the host city prepare their infrastructure. We spent $423,919,000 to help Atlanta and almost thrice that ($1.25 Billion) for Salt Lake City–and this is where the post-Olympics scandals can be found.
Look at the map on the top of this post. It is from the GAO report. It shows the 10 major road and highway projects funded by taxpayers for the Winter Games. Where these roads went, and who had control of the land was at the core of the grift. It is an old school scandal (remember Chinatown) and a scandal that can be mapped. The land around these taxpayer funded projects were owned by some people before the Olympics game to town. Then other folks magically got control of the land. And then the Federal Government built out the infrastructure to these parcels (roads, water sewer, etc.). Next, it could be developed. It could be rented and sold and resold. Businesses could start. New communities could start. Utah could have an economic boom–all because taxpayers bailed out the Olympics.
And yet, the folks who profited from this bailout–Mitt and all his pals–will pretend that they saved the fucking Olympics and that they were brilliant Masters of the Universe who create wealth and profit. The fact that they owe everything to their ability to fleece US taxpayers will never be mentioned.
The post 2002 Winter Games Olympic Scandal dwarfs the the Bidding scandal, but that is not the narrative we are told. Rather we are fed a stinky stew about Mitt “saving” the Olympics through his wits and the mighty, mighty “magic”of the invisible hand.
So it goes.