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Sergey Bubka, Alexander Popov deny Rio Olympic vote-buying claims

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Olympic gold medalists Sergey Bubka and Alexander Popov denied claims made in a Brazilian court they were paid to vote for Rio de Janeiro’s winning bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday its ethics commission has contacted both men about the allegation by former Rio state governor Sergio Cabral, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption.

Cabral’s testimony Thursday echoed details of an alleged Olympic vote-buying scheme in 2009 already in the public domain.

Ongoing criminal investigations in Brazil and France have implicated Brazil’s former top Olympic official Carlos Nuzman, then-IAAF president Lamine Diack and his son, and then-IOC executive board member Frank Fredericks.

Pole vault great Bubka and swimming star Popov were IOC members voting in October 2009 in a four-candidate contest that included Chicago.

“I completely reject all the false claims made by the former Rio State governor,” Bubka, now an IOC executive board member, said in a statement Friday. “My lawyers will write to Mr. Diack to ask him to explain the allegations of Mr. Cabral who wrongly claims in his testimony that Mr. Diack could secure my vote.”

Popov, who is now an IOC honorary member after having full membership from 2000-16, said he didn’t vote for Rio in any of the three rounds of balloting.

“I did not participate in any negotiations and I am not familiar with the topics and with the people who are mentioned … and have never had contact with them,” the Russian swimmer said in a statement.

Popov said he was seeking to cooperate with the IOC’s ethics investigators, and joined Bubka in saying they were preparing law suits for defamation.

Bubka is the 1988 Olympic champion in pole vault and held the world record for 30 years until 2014. Popov is arguably the greatest ever men’s sprint swimmer and won the Olympic 50m and 100m freestyles in 1992 and 1996.

They are the latest high-profile names in Olympic circles to be linked to vote-buying investigations for the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Most of the evidence detailed connects Papa Massata Diack, the son of long-time IOC member Lamine Diack, to irregular payments of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Fredericks, a four-time Olympic sprint medalist from Namibia, was suspended by the IOC in 2017 after French investigators revealed he received a $300,000 payment on the day of the 2016 Olympics vote in October 2009. It allegedly came from a Brazilian businessman and was routed via Papa Diack.

Fredericks denied wrongdoing and said the money was for consultancy work in athletics.

On Thursday, Cabral told a judge he paid $1.5 million in bribes through intermediaries to Lamine Diack, to secure up to six votes in the meeting of around 100 IOC members awarding the 2016 Summer Games. Cabral added that another $500,000 was paid later to Diack’s son to secure three more votes for Rio.

Cabral repeated publicly known claims that Nuzman handled negotiations, and the money allegedly came from businessman Arthur Soares.

Nuzman is due to stand trial for money laundering, tax evasion, and racketeering. French authorities said last month they want both Diacks to stand trial on corruption charges. The elder Diack has been detained in France since 2015 and his son has evaded questioning in their native Senegal.

Fredericks faces preliminary charges of passive corruption and money laundering.

The IOC said Friday is it “fully committed to address any issues” with Olympic bidding which has been reformed since 2013 when Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games.

“With these reforms the IOC has turned the page with regard to good governance and in particular the procedure of the election of host cities,” the Olympic body said.

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Jailed former governor says he bought votes for Rio Olympics

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A jailed former governor of Rio de Janeiro state told a judge on Thursday that he paid about $2 million for the votes of International Olympic Committee members to award the Brazilian city the 2016 Summer Games.

Sergio Cabral said he paid $1.5 million in bribes through intermediaries to the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, originally in exchange for up to six votes in the meeting that awarded Rio the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The former governor added that another $500,000 was paid later to Diack’s son with the aim of securing three more votes of IOC members for Rio.

Cabral said former Brazilian Olympic Committee chairman Carlos Arthur Nuzman handled the negotiations. The former governor said the money came from a debt owed to him by businessman Arthur Soares.

“Nuzman came to me and said ’Sergio, I want to tell you that the IAAF president, Lamine Diack, is a person that is open to undue advantages. He can secure five or six votes. In exchange, he wants $1.5 million,” the former governor said about a meeting he alleges he had with Nuzman in August 2009.

The jailed politician said he used Leonardo Gryner, who would later become the Rio 2016 committee director-general of operations, to get in touch with Papa Diack, son of Lamine Diack, to make the payments.

Gryner was arrested for corruption, money laundering and criminal organization in 2017, but has since been released.

Cabral said Nuzman approached him again in mid-September 2009 to talk about more votes that could be bought, less than a month before the IOC decision.

“Nuzman told me Papa Diack said he could get more votes. He said we could reach nine votes in total, but he needed another $500,000. I told him it would be done,” Cabral said.

Rio was chosen over Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid to host the 2016 Games.

Nuzman’s attorney João Francisco Neto told reporters the accusation is “a version faded to disappear” because the former governor has no evidence.

“Cabral is sentenced to 200 years in prison. He needs to say things, but he has no evidence,” Neto said. “Even if that had happened, corporate corruption is not a crime in Brazil.”

Lamine Diack, meanwhile, is facing trial in France for corruption and money laundering and has been accused of taking money to cover up positive doping tests by Russian athletes.

Cabral governed Rio state between 2003 and 2010. He was arrested in November 2016 for corruption, money laundering and many other crimes.

The former governor said he bought the votes for Rio to get to “the second stage of the vote” and that “no votes were bought after that.”

Chicago’s bid was the first to be eliminated, despite the presence of then-U.S. President Barack Obama at the IOC meeting in Copenhagen.

Tokyo was next. Rio beat Madrid in the final round, 66 votes to 32.

Cabral said he told then-Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes about the bribes.

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Brazil Olympic beach volleyball champs form dangerous teams after split

Evandro, Bruno, Alvaro and Alison
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HAMBURG, Germany — Rio Olympic champions Bruno Schmidt and Alison Cerutti are no longer partners.

But that is not necessarily good news for the competition.

“The teams they are with now make a lot of sense,” said NBC Sports analyst Kevin Wong, “and they are dangerous.”

The Brazilians split in May 2018 after four years together. Bruno said he and Alison mutually agreed to part in a quick conversation after a morning practice.

“We shocked the world at the time, but it was a smart decision,” Bruno said in an interview at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. “We couldn’t push each other more.”

They were coming off a 17th-place finish, their worst result in an international tournament since 2015.

“We accomplished everything we could together, so it got to a point where we needed new goals and motivations,” Alison said through a translator. “We decided to go different paths while respecting each other so much.”

Both are now competing with younger players.

Bruno, 32, who is nicknamed the “Magician” for his ability to dig balls that seem destined to hit the sand, joined forces with 28-year-old Evandro Goncalves.

Alison, 33, known as the “Mammoth” with a large tattoo of the animal on his side to prove it, teamed with 28-year-old Alvaro Filho.

“We both knew we needed to get younger to continue to play at a high level,” Bruno said.

Evandro, a reigning world champion, has been named the top server on the international tour every year since 2015.

“When Evandro serves, it’s like somebody is spiking down at you,” said three-time U.S. Olympian Jake Gibb, “whereas a normal serve has an upward trajectory.”

Evandro said his serve has been clocked as fast as 63 miles per hour, but he is confident that he has served faster in practice.

“There’s been several times where I’ve hit someone in the chest so hard that the ball bounces back over the net, but no bruises from my serve,” Evandro said through a translator. “That just happens when I attack the ball.”

Playing with a defender as talented as the “Magician,” who was named the international tour’s top defender four times, Evandro has had to adjust to blocking full time. Meaning after he unleashes a serve, he must run to the net to block, rather than remain in the back half of the sand to play defense.

The 6-foot-11 Evandro, the co-tallest player on the international tour, has the height to be an elite blocker.

His size also earned him a pair of NBA nicknames. U.S. Olympian Casey Patterson nicknamed Evandro the “Black Mamba,” a nod to Kobe Bryant. But Bruno, the nephew of the Olympics’ all-time leading basketball scorer Oscar Schmidt, jokingly refers to his lanky teammate as “Kevin Durant.”

To improve his blocking technique, Evandro studies film of Phil Dalhausser, the 2008 U.S. Olympic champion who has been named the international tour’s top blocker seven times.

“Evandro was already a pretty good blocker before, and now if he’s making moves, that’s scary,” Dalhausser said. “He has no holes in his game.”

The partnership between Alison and Alvaro was orchestrated by three-time Olympic medalist Ricardo Santos.

Alvaro was playing with Ricardo, a player he grew up idolizing and even once ditched school to watch practice.

After the duo won the Brazilian national title in April, the 44-year-old Ricardo told Alvaro that he would be better off playing with Alison.

“I’ve never heard of a partner telling a partner to go play with another one,” Alvaro said. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Ricardo even called Alison to recommend Alvaro.

“Now I see why,” Alison said. “[Alvaro’s] such a great player … we are meshing really well.”

Alvaro is nicknamed the “Goat,” although he is quick to point out that the animal is common in his native Brazilian state of Paraiba and he is not actually the “greatest of all time.”

The 6-foot-1 Alvaro was named the international tour’s top rookie in 2013, the same year he finished second at worlds with Ricardo.

“Alvaro is deceptively big,” American Stafford Slick said shortly after losing to the Brazilian duo in three sets at the world championships. Brazilian men’s and women’s pairs won their first 19 pool-play matches in Hamburg, with the knockout rounds starting Tuesday. “If he was walking through the crowd, you wouldn’t think much of him, but that guy flies and has a whip of an arm. He’s tough to block.”

Evandro and Bruno are the top Brazilian pair in the Olympic qualification rankings, followed by Alison and Alvaro. A maximum of two Brazilian teams can go to Tokyo.

Evandro and Bruno won their last tournament before worlds. In the final, they ended the 23-match win streak of the top-ranked team in the world, Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum.

“I am not sure we are in our best shape yet, but we will get there,” Bruno said. “Evandro has pushed me to a level I almost forgot I could get to.”

Guilherme Torres and Nick Zaccardi contributed to this report

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