OLYMPIC ATHLETES TO PITCH IN FOR GAMES: USOC MOVES TO COMBAT BAD PRESS FROM SCANDALS

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The U.S. Olympic Committee will begin using Olympic athletes as spokespersons to help burnish the image of the games in the midst of the Salt Lake City corruption scandal.

"The USOC is planning on using its greatest assets -- its athletes," said John Krimsky Jr., deputy secretary general and managing director of business affairs for the USOC. "We plan to focus our attention on using Olympic athletes as spokespersons for our movement."

IOC SPONSORS MEET

Separately, 11 International Olympic Committee sponsors met last week as a group with IOC officials to hear results of the investigations surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympics Organizing Committee, to raise concerns about the widening scandal and to press for IOC reforms.

No sponsors have yet pulled their support, although John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. President David D'Alessandro has been a vocal critic of the IOC's handling of the crisis. Early last week, he canceled negotiations with NBC for a $20 million Olympic broadcast ad buy and said he would remove the Olympic rings logo from John Hancock's annual report and other materials.

Each of the IOC's worldwide sponsors pay some $55 million for multiyear deals that give them rights to use the Olympic logo. In addition to John Hancock, the IOC's sponsors include Coca-Cola Co., IBM Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., McDonald's Corp., Panasonic, Samsung Electronics Co., Sports Illustrated, United Parcel Service of America, Visa USA and Xerox Corp.

While the IOC seeks to retain support of its sponsors, the USOC got a boost last week when one of its prominent sponsors, General Motors Corp., voiced support for the Olympics.

GM TO PARTICIPATE

Mr. Krimsky said GM is among the USOC sponsors that will participate in the plan to use Olympic athletes, although he declined to discuss details. Overall, he said, the effort would revolve around athletes stepping forward for "public relations and other media opportunities," possibly including advertising.

"The burden is to produce a comeback plan to erase the bad publicity," said Mr. Krimsky. According to a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, 51% of respondents said they have lost some respect for the Olympics as a result of the bribery

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