OAN’s Brooke Mallory
5:59 PM – Tuesday, June 20, 2023
French police searched the 2024 Paris Olympic organizer’s headquarters on Tuesday as part of a corruption probe into contracts linked to the upcoming games, which is the third time graft allegations have affected a Summer Olympics, according to prosecutors.
The Paris organizing committee said in a statement that a search was conducted at its offices in the Saint-Denis district and that it was cooperating with investigators. The committee defended what it called “stringent procedures” in relation to the hundreds of contracts handed out for the Games.
According to an official that works with the financial prosecutor’s office and who has not been publicly named due to regulations, Tuesday’s search and other related raids were linked to two preliminary investigations into the Paris Olympics. One investigation began in 2017, the year Paris was officially chosen as the 2024 host city by the International Olympic Committee, while the other probe began last year.
The investigations were not made public until Tuesday.
Corruption suspicions have lingered over the world’s largest sports event multiple times, ranging from charges about how the Games were awarded, to how contracts for construction, sponsorship, and team services were allocated.
Several IOC members were fired over allegations of vote-buying in connection with the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Tokyo Games in 2021. Scandals surrounding the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games prompted measures that limited IOC members’ communication with candidate nations, but they did not completely eliminate the possibility of corruption.
However, Paris 2024 has gone to great lengths to demonstrate that things will be different this time. The games are being portrayed as a celebration of openness after two Olympics were closed down by the COVID-19 pandemic and as an example of “democratic celebration” following two World Cups contaminated by human rights issues in Qatar and Russia.
The organizers and Paris city council have emphasized transparency and social fairness, including plans for a free opening celebration along the Seine River for up to 500,000 people. The Games are set to take place from July 26th to August 11th, 2024.
Saccage 2024, an anti-Olympics organization that claims the Games inflict extensive environmental and social damage, said it was “very pleased” with the raids.
“For us, an event of Olympic proportions cannot be held without corruption,” the group said in a statement. “It’s the size of the event that makes it necessary, whatever the country.”
The investigation, which began back in 2017, is looking into potential misuse of public funds and favoritism, as well as questions about an unidentified contract made by Paris organizers, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Last year’s probe followed a French Anti-corruption Agency examination. According to the prosecutor’s office, the issue involved various contracts negotiated between the organizing committee and Solideo, the state organization in charge of Olympic infrastructure.
Prosecutors added that the offices of that entity were also searched. According to Le Monde, searches were conducted at the offices of various organizations and consultants involved in the Games’ organization.
Solideo is in charge of the development and refurbishment of more than 60 Olympic projects, including the athletes’ village in the Saint-Denis area, which will reportedly supply around 2,000 housing units after the Games.
In a statement, representatives for the Paris 2024 Games named itself “one of the most audited organizations in France,” with consistent monitoring of its governance and strict procedures aimed at “transparency and propriety” regarding contracts.
The raids occurred as the IOC executive board convened in Lausanne, Switzerland, for a two-day summit.
“Of course, [the games] will be about Paris, where we have some good news after the visit of the coordination mission and after my visit to France, to President Macron, and also the organizing committee,” said IOC president Thomas Bach on Monday.
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