Rio bribed committee to host Olympics, ex-governor claims

Sérgio Cabral says he was advised to pay $2m to avoid Brazil’s early elimination in voting

Rio de Janeiro paid out bribes to members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order to secure the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the former governor of Rio state has claimed.

Sérgio Cabral told a Rio judge he handed over $2 million (€1.78 million) to Lamine Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, to ensure Rio's bid had enough votes to avoid an early elimination in the voting process.

Mr Cabral said he did so on the advice of Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the then head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and Leo Gryner, an executive with the Rio bid. They warned him the city risked being knocked out on the first round of voting and had therefore made contact with Mr Diack, saying the Senegalese official was known to be open to accepting bribes.

Guaranteed votes

According to the ex-governor, Mr Diack wanted $1.5 million for "five or six votes", among them those of former Russian swimmer Alexander Popov, a four-time gold medallist, and Sergei Bubka, the former Ukranian pole vaulter who won gold in Seoul in 1988.


Mr Nuzman and Mr Gryner later sought another $500,000 for Mr Diack to guarantee nine votes in total. The voting took place in Copenhagen in October 2009 with Rio's bid coming in behind Madrid on the first round with 26 votes, eight votes ahead of last-placed Chicago which was eliminated. Rio went on to secure the games in the third and final round, beating Madrid by 66 votes to 32.

Mr Cabral’s claim came during questioning on Thursday at the trial for vote-buying by Rio’s bid team. His fellow accused Mr Nuzman and Mr Gryner deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Cabral has already been sentenced to 198 years in prison in a series of trials following a spectacular corruption spree when governor of Brazil’s third most populous state.

Ethics and compliance

An IOC spokesperson said in a statement the organisation’s chief ethics and compliance officer was following up Mr Cabral’s allegations and had contacted the IOC members he had mentioned by name.

In a statement on Twitter, Sergey Bubka said he completely rejected "all the false claims" and said Mr Diack had never contacted him about his vote. In a statement published on Instagram, Mr Popov said he had never voted for Rio as host city and also denied any contact with Mr Diack.

Mr Diack has been at the centre of a series of sporting corruption scandals and, in 2017, French newspaper Le Monde claimed his son Papa had received $1.5 million from Arthur Soares Filho three days before voting in Copenhagen.

Mr Soares Filho is a Rio businessman who was close to Mr Cabral when he was governor. He is the fourth defendant in the vote-buying trial in Rio and is currently a fugitive from Brazilian justice.

Mr Diack faces trial in France for his role in attempting to cover up doping by Russian athletes.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America