Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Host City Bid Under Expanding Cloud of Suspicion

Opening Ceremony Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Carlos Nuzman and Thomas Bach (back) at the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony

They raided the home of the president of the Brazilian National Olympic Committee, Carlos Nuzman, and took away his passport.

Two investigations, one in France and the other in Brazil, have come together to uncover evidence which indicate attempts to influence the candidate city bidding process for the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2020 Summer Olympics, and led to the investigation of Guzman, who was a member of the Brazilian volleyball team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and presided over the 2016 Rio Olympics last August as head of the Brazilian NOC.

Operation Car Wash (Operação Lava Jato) is an ever-expanding investigation within the Brazilian government that has uncovered a massive system of bribes to government officials in exchange for decisions favorable to contractors, particularly in the construction business. Brazilian authorities also saw similar patterns of corruption in Brazil’s bid to make Rio de Janeiro the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and worked closely with French authorities, who are holding former IAAF president and influential IOC member, Lamine Diack, who may be providing detailed information on the hidden, somewhat unseemly world of bribes to influence candidate city selection.

According to Inside The Games, “Nuzman, President of both the Bid and Organising Committee for Rio 2016, is accused of involvement in a scheme in which $1.5 million (£1.2 million/€1.4 million) was used as an attempt to solicit the votes of International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in return for supporting the Brazilian bid which was awarded the Games in 2009 in Copenhagen.”

Lamine Diack
Lamine Diack

Sports Intern editor, Rich Perelman, quoted Brazilian prosecutors as stating, “Nuzman was the agent responsible for bringing together interested parties, making contacts and oiling relationships to organise the mechanisms for transferring Cabral’s bribes directly to African members of the International Olympic Committee, which was effectively done by way of Arthur Soares.”

Perelman went on to note that Soares “paid as much as $10 million in bribes to Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro from 2007-14, and that in 2009, some $2 million of that money was funneled to Lamine Diack just three days before the Host City selection in Copenhagen.”

Still, somewhat under the radar is an investigation into the bidding process for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The UK newspaper, The Guardian, has reported on a USD1.5 million payment made to a Singapore-based company called Black Tidings, which appears to have contacts to Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack. The bank transfer payment was labeled, perhaps naively, “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid,” and was made only weeks before Tokyo won the host city bid.

Nooses are tightening as the Brazilian and French investigations dig deeper. As Perelman wrote, “These are nervous, unhappy times for people who have been in the spotlight of the Olympic Movement over the past decade.”