Only six media representatives were invited to the meeting including Britain’s Andrew Jennings and Phillip Whitten, representing Swimming World. Jennings is the author of The Lords of the Rings (1992) and The New Lords of the Rings (1996), which detailed the extent of Olympic corruption, bribery and payoffs long before the Salt Lake City scandal broke. Later, representatives from the Toronto Star, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other major papers showed up to report on the meeting, along with Olympic chronicler Bud Greenspan.
What brought these great athletes, Olympic advocates and reporters to New York on a hot and humid June weekend was a shared sense that the seemingly endless Olympic scandals threaten to destroy the integrity of the Games.
It all began last February 4 when Tewksbury, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m backstroke, quit his posh posts on the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Toronto 2008 bid committee and the FINA athletes’ commission in disgust. Tewksbury had been one of the IOC’s hair-haired young men, carefully being groomed for the next Canadian spot on the IOC.
But Tewksbury had had enough: “There comes a time when you have to speak out and tell the truth,” he said, “or you’ll forever lose your integrity. Tewksbury’s denunciation of IOC corruption–almost unique for an insider in the century-old history of the IOC–generated headlines worldwide. he followed up his statement with an article in the April issue of Swimming World, “When Sorry Isn’t Enough,” explaining exactly why he opted out of the IOC.
In March, Tewksbury and a friend, Keith Stein, a vice president at Magna International, Inc., decided to do something about the IOC. The next day they visited Belinda Stronach, Magna’s Executive V.P. and daughter of the giant corporation’s founder and chairman, Frank Stronach. “Magna,” Belinda Stronach explained, “has a corporate policy of donating two percent of its profits to support local communities and other worthy causes.” Last year that amounted to some $15 million. She decided to pony up $1 million to jump-start the group, with $250,000 devoted to the conference.
At the end of the conference, OATH had agreed upon vision and mission statements and a five-point statement of consensus. The organization affirmed its support of the Olympic ideals – if not the present guardians of those ideals – but added five “principles of ethical guardianship for the Olympic movement:” reponsible governance, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and democracy.