April 28, 2000

Sydney residents have been told not to use their own public transport system during the Olympic Games this year. The IOC’s Anita DeFrantz said she was impressed by Sydney’s system of trains, buses and ferries but said the Olympics would place unprecedented strain on Australia’s most populated city. She said the best thing local residents could do to ensure the smooth running of the Games is to stay away.

Sydney’s Olympic organizers have denied a published report that Palestine is threatening to ask Arab countries to join a boycott of the Sydney Olympic Games. A front page story in The Australian newspaper said Palestine objected to a monument unveiled last year at Sydney Olympic Park to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics and would call an Arab boycott. A SOCOG spokesman said the threat was a consideration if a minute of silence was held at the opening ceremony for the Israeli athletes and the SOCOG board rejected the proposal in February.

East Timor was ruled ineligible for the Sydney Olympics Wednesday because it failed to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards. The United Nations is administering the former Indonesian province during its transition to independence. And the IOC said East Timor does not fulfill the basic criteria to have a recognized National Olympic committee. East Timor only wanted to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sydney Olympic Organizers said their plans were put on hold when the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis was postponed because of strong crosswinds. A replica of the torch that will light the Sydney Olympic cauldron was on board. But SOCOG remains confident that the torch will be in space in time to promote the start of the Sydney 2000 torch relay.

Meanwhile protesters against the construction of a temporary stadium on Bondi Beach for Olympic beach volleyball buried themselves in sand Thursday and vowed to block work scheduled to start next week. Last month, members of a group calling themselves “Bondi Warriors” threatened violent protests if the Olympic Coordination Authority went ahead with plans to build a 10,000-seat stadium on the beach, starting May 1. A large area of the beach would be closed to the public for six months during construction and competition at the Games Sept. 15-Oct. 1. At least 500 protesters are expected on the beach Monday “to stand in front of bulldozers”.

With the official opening of the second water polo venue, the last of the permanent structures has now been completed for the Sydney Games. SOCOGO had to build an extra pool after women’s water polo was belatedly added to the Olympic program.

And finally, Greece’s Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos, whose ministry oversees Olympic preparations, admitted organizers of the 2004 Games in Athens had fallen behind schedule, but he said the delays were not a “catastrophe”. Sources in the Athens 2004 organizing committee said the International Olympic has long been concerned about the slow progress of several projects, including the construction of an Olympic village, hotel accommodation and transport to venues. Premier Costas Simitis met with the head of the 2004 organizing committee and culture minister Pangalos. He also held closed-door talks with an IOC envoy. After talks with the Premier, Culture Minister Pangalos said that things were under control and added that, “in about one month the climate will have changed”.