When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics, it was a sign of Brazil’s prominence. The Latin America leader was ready to take a seat at the big boys’ table in the international community. Apparently, though, there is more than meets the eye. French newspaper Le Monde has reported that the country’s justice system is investigating corruption during the bid process.
Three days prior to deciding the vote, a rich Brazilian businessman allegedly paid $1.5 million to the son of an influential IOC member. According to the report, the money was wired by Matlock Capital Group. The company linked to a man called Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho, referred to as “King Arthur” among Rio politicians.
At the receiving end was Pamodzi Consulting, a company founded by Papa Massata Diack. He is the son of Lamine Diack, then president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and a member of the IOC. During that same period, Massata Diack received an additional $500,000 through a Russian bank account.
Rio won the bid to host the 2016 Olympics in a competition with Chicago, Madrid, and Tokyo. The real competition, however, was against Madrid. At the time, IOC members stated that Rio would be a better choice due to overwhelming public support for the event, and the city’s more flexible legal framework to pass the necessary urban transportation reforms.
It is still too early to claim that Rio only won the bid because it bought the votes. In the final round, the Brazilian city received 66 votes against Madrid’s 32. However, we wouldn’t be too shocked to discover down the road that Diack and other IOC delegates had illegal incentives for their votes.
Mario Andrada, Rio 2016 Olympics’ head of communications stated that the city won a “clean election” by a huge margin. He says: “The investigation is into the IAAF. Since their members are also IOC delegates, people linked that to the Olympics bid.”
Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho is no stranger to Brazil’s Federal Police. Few businessmen were as close to former Governor Sérgio Cabral (currently in jail for corruption) as was Soares. His nickname ,”King Arthur,” is a reference to his power during Cabral’s administration.
Between 2007 and 2014, Soares Filho’s companies earned more than $890 million in contracts with Rio’s state government. His companies made payments to an office connected to Cabral’s wife Adriana Ancelmo (also in jail for corruption).
A few years ago, he moved to Miami to avoid prosecution for a case of fraud in Rio de Janeiro.
Le Monde’s claims are by no means the first to cast doubt on the Olympics bidding process. Back in October, Barack Obama told New York Magazine that Olympics’ hosting decisions are a little “cooked.”
“Everybody thought that if I flew out [to Copenhagen, where the selection took place] we had a good chance of getting it, and it might be worth essentially just taking a one-day trip. We’ve learned that IOC’s decisions are similar to FIFA’s decisions: a little bit cooked.”
Let’s just not forget that the 2016 Olympics were a considered a success. 9 out of 10 tourists who came to Brazil want to come back.