April 24, 2000

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission (ATSIC) deputy chairman Ray Robinson said the ATSIC board had agreed to support peaceful protest marches during the Olympic Games Sept. 15-Oct. 1. But he said the ATSIC commissioners hadn’t decided whether or not to provide financial backing for campaigners. Aboriginal protesters have threatened to use the Olympics and the intense media attention the Games generate, to highlight the plight of their people.

If you want to sneak into Australia during the Olympics, be forewarned. Australia’s Immigration Department is planning a crackdown on illegal asylum seekers attempting to sneak into the country. An extra 60 immigration officers will be deployed at Sydney International Airport alone, and another 180 customs agents will be trained to handle special immigration duties. Authorities are expecting about 30,000 people to pass through Sydney airport in the 24 hours before the Sept. 15 opening ceremony.

Meanwhile Olympic organizers have eased restrictions on television access at the Sydney Games and are allowing a limited number of international broadcasters to film within the main Homebush site. Sydney’s organizing head Michael Knight announced a compromise plan, approved by the International Olympic Committee, which will allay the concerns of non-rights-holding entities including CNN, ESPN, Fox, Associated Press Television News and Reuters Television. The ban led to official protests by television companies and the threat of possible legal action against Sydney Olympic officials. Under the new rules, Olympic officials will issue eight permits per day to international non-rights-holder and eight to Australian non-rights-holders.

It’s called Carry the Flame and it’s the first single to be released from the Olympic Record album. The album is expected to generate revenue for Sydney’s Olympic Committee and the single, Carry the Flame, will be in stores on May 1.

A former High Court justice and governor-general of Australia has been appointed a member of the International Olympic Committee’s ethics commissions, filling the seat vacated by fellow Australian Kevan Gosper. Gosper is the International Olympic Committee vice president who resigned from the ethics panel last month amid accusations he accepted excessive hospitality from Salt Lake City bidders.

The Olympic torch, wrapped in foam packaging, is now stored on board U.S. space shuttle Atlantis. The torch and an official Sydney 2000 Games flag will orbit the Earth with Atlantis when it visits the international space station. The shuttle is scheduled to launch Monday and is due to return to Earth on May 10, just days before the start of the Olympic torch relay in Greece.

And the Olympic flame will get a send-off from the ruins of ancient Olympia to the Sydney 2000 Games with the help of Ancient Greek music and dance. The flame will be lit May 10 and tour 102 Greek communities, about 1,062 miles and 500 nautical miles, before it is handed over to Sydney Games officials in Athens May 20.

Unless Greek organizers make “drastic changes” by the end of the year, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens will be in danger. International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch said that Greece had failed to deliver and faced major problems and delays in preparations for the Games. He said it was the worst organizational crisis faced by an Olympic city in his 20 years as president of the IOC. But he appeared to rule out the possibility of the Athens Games being moved elsewhere. IOC officials will meet with Greek government officials in the next few days to press the point. Samaranch called for Greece to appoint a government cabinet minister to take charge of the organizing committee, adopting the same model as that for the 2000 Sydney Games.

And finally, the International Olympic Committee praised the Sydney Olympic Committee and IBM on their development of www.olympics.com, the official Olympic Web Site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, which is set to break all previous internet traffic records for a sports event site. It is expected the site will garner 1.4 billion page views over the six-month period leading up to and during the Olympic Games.