London 2012: Illegal betting threatening Olympic Games

By ALFONSO NACIANCENO

THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) is to continue its battle against the threat of mafia elements controlling illegal betting invading the London Games.

Concern is growing that athletes could become involved in fixing results or segments of various competitions, in complicity with or under pressure from betting networks with no qualms over extorting athletes’ families to achieve their objectives. Those involved in this battle have stated that these actions are very difficult to uncover, and thus will have to be on the alert at the scene of events themselves.

The IOC has prohibited athletes participating and those accompanying them from placing bets during the Games, and is to open a telephone hotline through which to expose any suspicious activity.

A working group was set up in March 2011 to combat corruption and ensure clean play in the London Olympics. In its recent third meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, members agreed that “sports fraud must be considered a crime,” and also acknowledged that very little has been achieved in eradicating this situation, where Internet is used for direct payment transfers among the most powerful allies.

For Christophe de Kepper, IOC director-general, governments have much to do and cooperation is needed among police and justice systems worldwide to combat this harmful practice, bearing in mind that the largest flows of illegal bets come from Europe and the Far East.

INTERPOL estimates that this dirty business moves approximately $140 billion annually, with the consubstantial money laundering, more than enough reason to create awareness of the danger represented by these mafia and their economic power.

AS SERIOUS AS DOPING

Betters constitute a risk as serious as doping for sports credibility and probably a worse one, taking into account the sums of money involved, De Kepper believes. For this reason he has proposed a universal code of conduct for the Olympic movement, to include athletes, judges and referees. He also emphasized the need for governments to realize the magnitude of the problem, mentioning football and cricket as among the disciplines most damaged by scandals involving fixed games.

On February 2, date of the Lausanne meeting, and three days before the Super Bowl or Super Cup, the final game of the American National Football League (NFL), the U.S. District Attorney’s Office closed 16 Internet pages directly retransmitting sports competitions and other events for illegal gain, pirate practices which operated from February 2010 through January of this year. Nine of them were operated by one man, known as Ronaldo Solano, from Michigan.

In early 2012, Chris Eaton, head of security for the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), stated in an interview published on the FIFA webpage that people find it unimaginable to utilize football for some kind of personal fraud and this is the principal enemy in the battle against this evil.

Eaton recalled that FIFA’s security department was created after the South Africa 2010 World Cup to prevent these dirty dealings, but for its work to be effective it essentially needs precise information on players, judges, referees and people threatened into manipulating the results of games. The leading sports body of this discipline promised to set up a resource to which people could refer in anonymity, and detail any case of extortion.

Returning to the subject of the London Olympics, six months prior to their inauguration, the IOC assured that sports agencies are receiving recommendations on how to protect their athletes and those close to them from being harassed by betting mafia. Although it has made clear its intention to continue combating this blight, some people are in favor of establishing an independent body similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency to address the issue.

In relation to security for the 2012 Olympics, 25,000 police are to be mobilized, according to Scotland Yard (London Metropolitan Police), in order to dissuade anyone attempting to disrupt the event, as well as to combat organized crime, the reselling of tickets on the illegal market and falsifications.

Granma

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