AP Reports Terje Boycotting Nagano? By Doug Mellgren(January 7, 1998)
OSLO, Norway (AP) – A world champion snowboarder is boycotting the Winter Olympics, contending the International Olympic Committee is a smug and secretive organization he likens to organized crime.
The decision by Terje Haakonsen, reported in newspapers Wednesday, is a blow to snowboarding, which will make its Olympic debut at next month’s Nagano Games.
Haakonsen, true to the rebel image many snowboarders cultivate, is fiercely critical of the IOC.
“When I say mafia, I mean what most people see in the word: people who take over control but never let anyone have an inside look at what they are doing,” Haakonsen told Sweden’s TV4 in December.
Norwegian IOC member Jan Staubo told newspapers that “Haakonsen’s `no’ has no importance to the Olympic idea.”
Haakonsen, like many Norwegians, questions the lush treatment accorded IOC members.
“The fact is that the big-wigs ride in limousines and stay in fancy hotels while the athletes lives in barracks in the woods,” he told the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang last month.
“I’m basically not saying anything more than Vegard Ulvang did before the Olympics in Lillehammer,” he added.
Ulvang, Norway’s champion Nordic skier, accused the IOC of being undemocratic. He said IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch’s links to the former regime of Gen. Francisco Franco in Spain were “bad and may not be worthy of a sports movement.”
Haakonsen is a three-time half-pipe world champion of the international snowboarding federation. He is known as “The Legend” and some rivals have said that winning an Olympic gold medal would be diminished without him competing.
He says the IOC was wrong to have FIS, the international skiing federation, organize snowboarding as an Olympic event. To qualify for the Olympics, Haakonsen would have to compete in at least one FIS event, which he refuses to do.
This dispute is similar to the one involving beach volleyball before the 1996 Atlanta Games. Some of the world’s top beach volleyball players said the Olympic competition should be run by the Association of Volleyball Professionals, which helped make the sport a TV success.
A last-minute compromise was reached and all the top players competed, although the tournament was run by the international volleyball federation.