A BBC investigation has raised concerns that the Japanese keirin event may have bought its way into the Beijing Olympic Games.
Just two weeks before the start of the Games, an investigative report on bbc.co.uk, that was also covered on the Radio 4 Today programme on Monday morning, reports that documents seen by the BBC suggest that a total £1.5m was paid by organisers of the Japanese cycling event to the UCI.
The payments, in a long series of donations and travel expenses, were allegedly made in the late 1990s after the keirin was formally included in the Olympic Games in 1996.
The BBC published a page of expenses and costs of promotional material titled: ?Project of public relations activities for popularizing and expanding track cycling?. It listed the travel details and cost of several trips taken by former UCI President Hein Verbruggen and the other strategic marketing costs.
ACCUSATIONS AND DENIALS
The BBC reinforced its accusations with comments by former UCI member Henrik Elmgreen.
“We must admit that when they came it was because the Japanese were very influential in the UCI and they offered a lot of money in order to promote this discipline. You can to a certain extent say they bought their way in but on the other hand it is a spectacular discipline,? Elmgreen is reported as saying by the BBC.
“Everybody knew the Japanese were supporting the world cup series and were supporting everything and I think everybody realised that they weren’t doing it for nothing. They wanted something in return and everybody knew what they got in return.”
The BBC also spoke to Mr Karamasu, the head of Japan’s Keirin Association. He categorically denied that any kind of deal to save the keirin had taken place.
“What we did is that we supported establishing the cycling training centres in Japan and also we paid the set amount that all the National Federations pay for membership? sort of a membership fee – I have to say I do not know about it at all. I have been in this position up until 1998 however I’ve never heard of any direct payment of money or cash,” Karamasu told the BBC.
Hein Verbruggen denies any wrongdoing.
“It’s been done in total transparency. This was done for the development of track cycling around the world,” Verbruggen told the BBC.
Verbruggen is the president of International Olympic Committee?s Evaluation Commission for the Games in Beijing and has supervised the organisation of this year?s summer Games in China since 2001.
The UCI initially refused to comment and said they will publish a statement later on Monday.
THE WIDER PROBLEM
The BBC ended its report by highlighting the wider problem of how each International Federation is responsible for deciding which disciplines are included or removed from the Olympic programme and how that power could be abused.
For example, the kilometre time trial was cut from the Beijing Games to make room for BMX. The UCI has always claimed this was done based on the request of the leading cycling nations but the BBC has revealed that financial support could also be a factor.