UT aborts Olympic record digitizing project

London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins. (London 2012/LOCOG)
London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins. (London 2012/LOCOG)

AUSTIN (AP) — The University of Texas at Austin has cut short a project to borrow, catalog and digitize a massive archive about the Olympic Games and returned the records to McGill University in Canada.

UT officials are not explaining their decision to abandon the project, but the move comes as court battles are building over the collection.

The battle is between UT and donors of more than $3 million over what the donors say were promises of access and matching donations.

Former McGill University Chancellor Richard W. Pound, who gave the archive to the Montreal university, was a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee.

He said he believes UT officials concluded the archive contains abundant private or confidential material, including some records he perhaps should not have had in his possession.

UT announced plans for the project three years ago, touting that the 350 boxes of documents would provide background on television rights negotiations, anti-doping efforts and the internal workings of the secretive Olympic organization. They also document the slayings of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow and Pound’s investigation of the 2002 Salt Lake City bidding scandal.

But litigation arose from a falling-out between McGill and Steven Ungerleider, a longtime Pound associate, psychologist, author and former UT gymnast.

The Foundation for Global Sports Development, of which Ungerleider is a founding trustee, sued UT last May, accusing the university of making false promises of access to the collection to wean more than $3 million in foundation donations to UT with university matches. UT denied the contention.

In November, Ungerleider personally sued UT and two university officials in Travis County, contending they urged university employees and others to retaliate against him. UT denies the allegation.

Ungerleider declined to comment to the newspaper about the return of the Olympic records.

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