Jul. 24/2000

Sydney’s Olympic Organizing Committee has added a ticketing service to its Olympic Web site, allowing people to search for events, check availability and purchase tickets for many events 24 hours a day. Tickets are limited to six per online transaction and must be paid for by Visa. Prices are in Australian dollars and won’t have an Australian goods and services tax added on.

There’s no such thing as a free ride. Sydney Olympic organizers had promised that anyone with an Olympic ticket could get free travel on the public transport system. But that only applies to CityRail trains and a small number of special Olympic spectator buses. There will be a charge to ride Airport Express buses, the monorail, Sydney route buses and the ferry. Thousands of ticket holders in Sydney’s northern suburbs won’t get a free shortcut across the harbour and their journey will be extended. And all Homebush ferries will be used exclusively by athletes and officials.

Meanwhile Sydney Olympic organizers have extended the torch relay route along Bondi Beach so that International Olympic Committee member Phil Coles could be involved in the torch-carrying relay. Coles was bumped from the relay route along Bondi Beach after being censured for accepting excessive hospitality from bid cities and later complained when he was given a relay leg along a suburban Bondi street. The route was revised because the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club, of which Coles is a member, had planned festivities involving Coles and groups of local children running with the torch.

It’s still a secret as to who will light the cauldron September 15 at the Olympic opening ceremonies, but Sydney’s Olympic minister Michael Knight said the person chosen by himself and Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates was likely to be one of the 1,000 people who carried the flame during its 100-day journey around the country. Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser, Golf Champion Greg Norman and Wimbledon finalist Pat Rafter will carry the torch before the opening ceremonies.

When you’re down under at the 2000 Games you can still keep in touch, thanks to an Australian company called Cable and Wireless Optus. Overseas visitors can get a mobile phone called Ozitalk, which will attempt to supply inbound travelers with mobile phone services and travel assistance. Tourists will be able to buy or rent a pre-paid mobile phone or purchase a global calling card, quickly and easily from just about anywhere in the world. Phones can also be delivered to people before they leave home or even on Australia-bound aircraft. And customers will be able to place orders through an Ozitalk Web site.

There are several Web sites being launched for groups to protest over the Internet, threatening to disrupt the opening ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics. The Sydney Alternative Media Centre is the latest radical Australian Web site modeled on those used to plan and publicize the protests in Seattle and Washington, and the recent demonstration in England. Groups including aborigines, anarchists and local people protesting about recent rent increases, as landlords cash in on the expected 340,000 tourists visiting Sydney for the Games, plan to use the internet to help organize and unauthorized demonstration during the opening ceremony. And activist sites are urging protesters to target many of the Olympic sponsors, including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Unilever and IBM. And recently it was reported that hackers plan to sabotage the official Olympic Web site, which has three servers in the U.S. and one in Australia. Meanwhile Sunday the Sydney branch of the Independent Media Centre, one of the most successful Seattle sites, was to train volunteers to upload video and audio footage and photographs on its Web site to enable instant, unofficial coverage of potential protests.

And the protests continue. Fiji coup leader George Speight called for indigenous people throughout the South Pacific to unite to disrupt the Sydney Games. But it wasn’t clear if he had their support and prospects for such a protest seem remote. The Australian government has banned Speight from visiting Sydney to coordinate any protest.

Ooops! It seems that several African countries neglected to book flights to the Sydney Olympics and Australian and international officials are intervening to make sure the athletes get to the Games. International Olympic Committee executive Jacques Rogge said about six African nations had failed to make flight reservations.

Drop your weapons! The Australian government wants all nations, including the United States, Israel and China, to refrain from bringing their weapons to the Sydney Olympics to protect their athletes. Reports say Israel and the United States had applied for exemptions from Australia’s tough firearm laws. According to media reports Israeli officials were working with Australian authorities to allow security agents who usually protect high-ranking delegates to use their own weapons to protect athletes. And other countries including China, Turkey, Japan, the United States, Iran and Iraq have expressed their concerns about Australia’s stance on the carriage of firearms.

Maybe they should hang on to their weapons a little longer. The Daily Telegraph reports that five people linked to terrorist groups in the Middle East, Europe and Asia have been deported from Australia in a nation wide security sweep of the Sydney Olympics. The newspaper says “counter terrorism sources say the past year has seen a sharp rise in the number of people with suspected terrorist links found in Australia and they feat it could threaten the Sydney Olympics”.

A new two-man Games Time Commission comprising Olympics minister Michael Knight and Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, which takes control August 1, will assume ultimate command of all facets of the 2000 Olympics. The new commission has rendered the existing organizing committee virtually powerless. Knight, who is president of the Sydney organizing committee, said that he has also elevated other New South Wales state government staffers in the chain of command. Four members of Knight’s ministerial office would be seconded to “key line jobs” in areas including transport, media and marketing. The acronyms representing previous powerbroker agencies, SOCOG, OCA, ORTA, will be merged with the Sports Commission, which is responsible for competition, under the Games Coordination Group (GCOG).

And finally, Australia’s top Olympic official and International Olympic Committee vice president Kevan Gosper said if he has the support, he would stand to replace retiring IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Gosper said he was confident in his ability to do the job despite an Olympic torch relay controversy in May. Gosper is also a member of the organizing committee for the Sydney Games. He said two other IOC officials, Canadian Dick Pound, and Belgian Jacques Rogge, would also be excellent contenders for the presidency when Samaranch steps down in 2001.

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