Aug. 7/2000

An advertising campaign aimed at unloading many of the 2.1 million tickets still unsold for the Sydney Games, started Sunday. Tickets are still available for gold-medal sessions in track and field, gymnastics, diving and basketball. And about 9,000 tickets for the closing ceremonies are available, but the opening ceremonies are sold out. All swimming events are also sold out, as well as four track and field sessions, some basketball games and finals in baseball, softball, tennis, field hockey and rowing.

Meanwhile, surveillance of web sites has uncovered plans by a large number of demonstrators from overseas to block entry to the Olympic stadium, disrupt competitions with sit-ins and ambush the wives of corporate heads attending the Games. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and other Olympic sponsors have been warned that they may be targeted for attack. Some will arrive in Sydney after attending protests in Melbourne, where leading businessmen and politicians are due to attend a meeting of the World Economic Forum on September 11, four days before the Games begin. Security guards have been given special temporary powers to demand names and addresses and to arrest demonstrators.

It would be a record. The Sydney Olympics could reach a record-breaking 3.7 billion viewers. The International Olympic Committee says 88 per cent of people in Japan are “very” or “somewhat” interested in watching the Games on television, 81 per cent of South Koreans professed interest, 80 per cent in Ireland, Finland and Lithuania and 79 per cent in China and Greece. And 78 per cent in Australia are interested, while in the United States 72 per cent are interested in the Games.

Speaking of television, U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky has protested to the Australian Government about plans to restrict foreign media access at the Sydney Games. Associated Press has complained the restrictions would limit its television coverage.

If Australian Aborigines use an Aboriginal Arts Center immediately outside the main Olympic stadium to protest, the center could be closed. Sydney Games organizers said the Arts centre was bound contractually not to organize or encourage protests at the site. A spokesman for the Sydney Olympic committee said that no one is saying you can’t protest, it’s a case of where you can protest.

In an unusual move for an International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch has issued a personal invitation to the leaders of North and South Korea to attend either the opening or closing ceremonies of the Sydney Games. Usually invitations to leaders of competing nations are handled through national Olympic committees.

Salt Lake City organizers have already outlined a schedule of 17 test events next winter to help prepare for the 2002 Games. It’s because the 16 months between Sydney and Salt Lake City is the shortest gap ever between Olympic Games. And there are improvements being made at venues. Soldier Hollow will have an 8,000-square-foot management building by September and a 10,000-square-foot day lodge is on the drawing board. The Utah Olympic Oval, site of speed skating events, should open in late December. An expansion at the Salt Palace convention center is underway. Amenities like comfortable quarters and weight rooms are planned at the Olympic Village. And weighted discs used for curling arrived recently from a quarry in Scotland, the only site in the world where they’re milled.

And finally, Salt Lake organizers have issued a 56-page air quality plan to curb air pollution during the 2002 Winter Games. According to the plan, 100,000 trees will be planted, and there will be natural gas-powered vans and motor coaches for athletes, Olympic officials, sponsors and the media; as well as park-and-ride lots for spectators. Olympic sponsor General Motors will loan vehicles that can burn gasoline or compressed natural gas. And Salt Lake will also make use of its new light-rail system. But all this could be thwarted by the weather because winter conversions are quite common. Meanwhile, Utah state officials are overhauling Interstate 15 along the Wasatch Front that was designed to cut traffic accidents by 20 per cent and freeway delays by 30 per cent. The system involves 190 stationary cameras, 550 coordinated traffic signals, roadbed sensors and 57 congestion-alert signs.