A former member of the Brazilian Olympic committee has shown The Associated Press letters he says he sent to the International Olympic Committee eight years ago that warned against awarding the games to Rio de Janeiro, and cautioned against the administration of Carlos Nuzman.
Nuzman, an IOC member who headed last year’s Rio Olympics, was held for police questioning last week for his alleged part in a $2 million vote-buying scheme to land the games in Brazil.
He has not been charged with a crime, and his lawyer says he was not involved in any wrongdoing. The corruption allegations come as the IOC met Wednesday in Lima, Peru, and awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles.
Alberto Murray Neto, a Sao Paulo lawyer who served with Nuzman for 12 years on the Brazilian Olympic committee but was never a member of the IOC, warned then-IOC President Jacques Rogge about investigations into Nuzman’s financial conduct at the Brazilian committee, and about bylaw changes that allowed him to maintain the presidency.
Murray has long been an outspoken critic of Nuzman. He also has an Olympic pedigree. His grandfather, Sylvio de Magalhaes Padilha, was a former IOC vice president and an IOC member from Brazil for almost 40 years.
Murray said he grew up “idolizing the Olympics” and has attended every one since 1972. He has also served on Court of Arbitration for Sport, the respected judicial body that rules on sports cases.
“I had been in opposition to him (Nuzman) for wanting to bring the Olympics to Brazil, and for the way he has dealt money at big events,” Murray said. “To me, spending money on these big events was out of place when there were so many matters like public health and crime.”
Murray acknowledged his complaints against Nuzman offer only circumstantial evidence that could gain credence now with the 75-year-old facing legal charges.
Murray wrote to Rogge before the IOC chose Rio de Janeiro in 2009 to host the 2016 Olympics. He included government documents, newspaper reports, and charts showing why Rio was unsuited for the Olympics.
Rogge’s chief of staff Christophe De Kepper confirmed to Murray that Rogge had received the correspondence. He also sent a copy to Nuzman. “We have duly taken note of your concerns,” De Kepper wrote in a letter that Murray showed to the AP.
Murray said that was De Kepper’s only reply. “The correspondence you are mentioning refer to internal matters in Brazil,” the IOC said in a statement to the AP. “Answers were given at the time, pursuant to the appropriate procedure in place on issues falling under the jurisdiction of the IOC.
“Separately, we would like to clarify that the IOC has not the capacity to make any criminal investigation. Therefore, if anyone brings to our attention alleged criminal activities, he/she will be advised to contact the relevant law enforcement authorities,” the statement said.
Murray also showed the AP copies of letters he said he sent to every Olympic committee member, in which he wrote that Rio organizers “will never be able to deliver what they are promising.”
The letter reminded that Nuzman had organized the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, and warned the Olympics would produce the same over-budget facilities and broken promises that plagued the regional games.
“The only legacy that the Pan American Games left was several lawsuits involving the use of public money … and an investigation by the department of justice,” Murray wrote to the IOC members.
Rio, which went into to the voting in 2009 as an underdog, defeated Madrid 66-32 in the final vote. In a statement this week after Nuzman was questioned, the IOC said its “Ethics Commission is following up on this matter. Where evidence is provided, we will act.”
A year after the Rio Olympics ended, white-elephant venues are begging for uses with the organizing committee headed by Nuzman stilling owing creditors millions in unpaid bills.
Brazil officially spent $13 billion in private and public money on the Olympics, though some estimates suggest the figure is $20 billion.
Richard Pound, a Canadian and the senior member of the IOC, urged the body to step up and act after Nuzman was detaine administratively, if not legally.
“We need to be a little more proactive and not be waiting for someone else to tell us that one of our members has acted improperly,” Pound told the AP. “We are now rightly concerned about the reputation of the IOC, which trickles down to everybody.”