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Ban on visit to bid cities upheld

Mexico City: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has overwhelmingly upheld the ban on member visits to bid cities, the major reform enacted following the Salt Lake City scandal.

Only six out of the 114 IOC members in the room voted Thursday in favour of reinstating the trips. The result marked a major victory for IOC president Jacques Rogge, who had campaigned against bringing back the visits.

The ban came into force in 1999 as part of a package of reforms adopted after the Salt Lake scandal. Ten members resigned or were expelled for receiving cash and other inducements from Salt Lake bidders.

In a spirited debate on the first day of a two-day general assembly, 15 members spoke in favour of retaining the visits. While several members complained the ban was an insult to their dignity, the majority said visits were costly and unnecessary, and that bringing them back would only damage the IOC’s public image.

“It was the visit process that nearly brought us down in 1999,” IOC vice-president Kevan Gosper told the assembly. “In one wrong decision, we could un-stitch the entire process of rebuilding our reputation worldwide.”

The no-visits rule will remain in place for the bid campaign for the 2012 Summer Olympics. New York City is the only officially declared candidate so far, but several European cities are expected to enter. The IOC will select the host city in 2005.

Also, the IOC said the threat of terrorism had prompted the organisation to increase its financial reserves and consider taking out insurance to cover the risk of disruption or cancellation of an Olympics. (AP)

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