IOC official: Sochi rife with corruption

GENEVA -- Senior IOC member Gian Franco Kasper defended his comments about corruption in the multi-billion-dollar spending on the Sochi Olympics, saying Friday they are based on a common perception in Russia.

Kasper, the long-time president of the International Ski Federation, told The Associated Press he stands by comments he made in a Swiss television interview.

The veteran Swiss official told state broadcaster SRF that one-third of the Sochi spending disappeared because of corruption. He said contracts were given to a "construction mafia" of businessmen closely linked to the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.

"The contracts were given to people who already had a foot in the door. We know it," the 69-year-old International Olympic Committee member said in an interview broadcast by the `'Rundschau" news magazine.

Kasper told the AP on Friday: "I didn't say anything which I wouldn't have said two years ago."

He said the one-third figure for corrupt spending is "what everybody says in Russia" and is not based on inside knowledge or evidence.

The games are estimated to cost a record $51 billion in sports and infrastructure projects.

"One-third is disappearing," Kasper told the AP in a telephone interview. "It's not only in Russia that in certain businesses there is always a part disappearing."

Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister-turned-Kremlin critic, alleged in a report released in May that up to $30 billion has been stolen in the run-up to the games.

Kasper clarified that money disappearing for corrupt reasons was from Russian sources, and not belonging to the IOC or its commercial partners. He said only $13 billion was specifically spent on the Winter Games, and the rest was for separate transport and construction projects.

Kasper's ruling council at the ski federation includes Russian billionaire businessman Andrey Bokarev, who is also a member of the executive board of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Kasper described Putin as a passionate sports fan, though a politically calculating personality.

"He is very strong, ice-cold man," Kasper said Friday. "That was not negative."