Jul. 29/2000

Sydney’s Olympic organizers are trying to avert transit problems that plagued the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Extra buses and communication systems for stranded passengers have been set up in case of transportation problems.

IBM has a new version of its Olympic fan mail service, which is expected to handle one million e-mails for athletes during the Games. The service started at the Atlanta Olympics where athletes received about 100,000 e-mails. Using 60 computers set up in the athlete’s village near Sydney’s Olympic Park, Olympians will be able to receive and write e-mails in 28 languages. Millions of e-mails are expected to pass through the site to the more than 10,000 athletes from more than 100 countries competing in the Games. The site is open now and anybody can send fan mail, but the athletes won’t receive it until they move into the Olympic Village starting September 2. IBM is closely guarding the secret of the filtering technology the company is using to protect the site from hate mail, political propaganda and inappropriate content.

There are still tickets available. The Sydney Olympics must sell $89 million worth of tickets to meet its budget target. Olympic organizer Michael Knight said, “we still have approximately 150 million Australian dollars (89 million US) of tickets to sell to make our budget”. The best seats have already been snapped up for the high-profile events.

It must be tough. International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch intends to stay in a “normal hotel” when he visits Sydney for the Games. And he will be driven around in a van. Samaranch said “listen, I need a car, don’t I? But it will be a van”. Samaranch also said he would be willing to testify at the trial of Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, two former heads of the Salt Lake City Bid Committee. The men had been scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate on August 1, but arraignments have been postponed until August 7 because of a scheduling conflict for the men’s lawyers. Attorney Amit Mehta, part of Welch’s defence team, said the two plan to plead innocent to the charges at the hearing.

Don’t blame Sydney residents for traffic jams during the Games. They are planning a mass exodus from the city. A survey conducted by Games sponsor Ansett Airlines reveals that more than half a million or 14 per cent of Sydney’s four million residents planned to escape Sydney and 55 per cent planned to travel overseas. Also 60 per cent said Australians had a positive attitude toward the Olympics.

Some Sydbits. The 8,500-square-metre Olympic and Paralympic Uniform and Accreditation Center was officially launched Tuesday and is expected to outfit 80,000 Olympic and 14,000 Paralympic volunteers and staff. Sydney Airport’s international terminal reopened after a multimillion-dollar facelift. Australia’s oldest man, 109-year-old Jack Lockett, walked with the Olympic torch before using it to light a community cauldron in the Victoria state town of Bendigo. And the IOC received an apparently favourable response from North Korea to its proposal for athletes from the two countries to parade as one behind the Olympic flag. But they will continue to compete during the Games for their respective nations with their own flags and anthems.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales state parliament found in an inquiry that expenses for the Sydney Olympics were budgeted too low. Organizers received an additional $82 million last month. It was the third financial bailout for SCOG in four months.

Speaking of budgets, the Greek government has approved $5.3 billion in spending for the 2004 Olympics and more than half of that money is aimed at infrastructure projects in Athens and around Greece. It was the first major budget approval since Athens was awarded the 2004 Games in 1997. And up to 50,000 volunteers could be recruited from Greece and abroad to help with the Olympics.

Some good news. According to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, organizers of the 2004 Olympics have made progress following his warnings that delays were endangering the Athens Games. An IOC inspection team will visit Athens August 24 and 25 to receive a progress report.

And finally, Greece will extend its torch relay for the 2004 Olympics to Italy and the Balkans to try to improve relations in the region. Other countries also being considered are Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Macedonia and Turkey. Rome was Athens’ main contender for the 2004 Games.