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Brazilian committee re-elects longtime president

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's Olympic Committee overwhelmingly re-elected Carlos Nuzman as president on Friday, overlooking a series of recent committee scandals and keeping him in the post until the 2016 summer Games in his home city of Rio de Janeiro.

Nuzman, after four previous four-year turns at the helm of the committee, ran unopposed and got 30 of the 31 available votes from committee members.

His continued dominance comes even as critics outside the committee's inner circle lambaste what they see as his authoritarian leadership style.

Nuzman's re-election also comes on the heels of two scandals surrounding the committee that, combined with recent controversies at the country's soccer confederation, have tarnished the glow ahead of two marquee events Brazil hopes will help to showcase its recent economic ascent. In addition to the 2016 Olympics, the first to be held in South America, Rio and 11 other Brazilian cities will host the 2014 World Cup.

Last month, Sebastian Coe, chairman of the organising committee for the recent London Olympics, called Nuzman after British officials discovered that employees of the Brazilian committee had secretly copied some of their files. The Brazilians were in England as guests of the London committee in order to gain experience ahead of the Rio Games.

Nuzman acknowledged the breach and fired 10 people.

That scandal was followed this week by revelations that Brazilian Olympic officials last December broke into the offices of the country's Winter Sports Confederation, on e of the groups that make up the committee. Committee officials wanted confederation documents for a court case against Eric Maleson, the confederation's head, whom they accuse of fraud and financial irregularities.

Maleson denies the charges and says the committee are after him because of his opposition to Nuzman. Maleson tried to run against Nuzman in Friday's vote but did not get enough support to formalize his candidacy.

"When you start invading people's offices there is no doubt there is a huge need for change," Maleson told Reuters.

The committee recently issued a statement saying it had legal authority to enter the office and take the documents, but Maleson produced a contract rebutting that. He also disclosed documents showing a decline in funding from the committee for his confederation.

Juca Kfouri, a prominent Brazilian sports journalist, compared the after-hours operation to Watergate and said Nuzman used "methods worthy of mafia organisations" to hold on to power.

Nuzman is also coming under scrutiny for refusing to relinquish a separate position as the head of the organising committee for the Rio Games. Opponents say the two positions are too important and the budgets too large to be controlled by the same person.

Former soccer player Romario, who is now in Brazil's Congress, recently called on the federal government to take a more active role in overseeing the activities of the committee as well as those of the Brazilian Football Confederation. The confederation has also endured a series of corruption scandals that earlier this year led its longtime head to step down.

"If there is no overseeing by either our president or a federal government organ then I can unfortunately state that we are going to suffer a great embarrassment," Romario said.

(Editing by Paulo Prada and Clare Fallon)

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