David D’Alessandro, president and chief operations officer of John Hancock Financial Services, said that statements by Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates appeared to fit the dictionary definition of bribery.

He said that definition was “the act of influencing the action of another by corrupt inducement”.

“The behaviour of the Sydney bid committee appears to fit this definition pretty well,” D’Alessandro wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Coates said in January that he had promised payments of US$35,000 to the national sports associations of two IOC members from Kenya and Uganda. The financial offers were made “hours before” the crucial vote for the 2000 Games was taken in Monte Carlo in 1993. Sydney beat Beijing by two votes.

Former Sydney bid chairmen, Australian Finance Minister John Fahey and Nick Greiner, released a statement later on Tuesday saying that Coates’ “arrangements” with Kenya and Uganda had been made without the bid committee’s knowledge and had already been considered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Fahey and Greiner – both former premiers of the host New South Wales state – said they had been in contact with the other 15 members of the Sydney bid committee and all had told them they had no knowledge of improper conduct by any IOC member.
The IOC has cleared Coates’ actions as within Olympic rules.

John Hancock Financial Services is a unit of John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co, one of several Olympics sponsors to express concern over the Olympic bidding process in the wake of a corruption scandal which seen four IOC officials resign.

The scandal began with allegations that Salt Lake City bribed IOC members to win the the 2002 Winter Games and has widened to include the 1998 Nagano Winter Games and Sydney Summer Games.

D’Alessandro said John Hancock’s concern was so profound that it would not carry through with US$20 million in television advertising and would remove the five Olympic rings from its stationery and billboards if the scandal was not resolved.

“Perhaps the IOC will do the right thing only when it understands that its revenues as well as its reputation are in peril,” he said, adding the company spent US$40 million every four years as one of the IOC’s 10 major worldwide sponsors.

To date, 14 IOC members out of 115 have been accused of breaking rules on accepting gifts or jobs for their families.

Last week, Australian IOC member Phil Coles stepped down from his Sydney Games duties after denying accusations in a Salt Lake City ethics report that he had misused his IOC membership to get free holidays to the United States.

Car maker GM-Holden, a major backer of the Sydney Games, and IOC worldwide sponsor Samsung Electronics have also expressed concern over the scandal in the past week.

D’Alessandro demanded changes to the bidding process, the disclosure of all gifts to IOC members and the start of a search for a successor to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

“All of us depend on a public that believes the Olympic Games are higher, purer and more noble that any other sporting event in the world…we all want the Olympic Games to stand for an integrity that can’t be bought,” D’Alessandro said.

“They have no value to any of us if they don’t.”