Jul. 3/2000

Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee coordination commission monitoring Sydney’s progress for the 2008 Olympics, said the Sydney organizers had made mistakes but everything was ready for September 15, the day the Games begin. Rogge said only the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer were better prepared. And he was relieved that hotel accommodations would finally meet the demand. Rogge said transport and staff preparation are the two biggest challenges facing the Olympic organizers, while recruitment and training of a 125,000 person workforce seemed to be on track. According to Rogge international ticket sales were on a par with previous Games but he expected domestic sales to set an Olympic record.

Disgraced International Olympic Committee member Phil Coles will not be censured for running with the Olympic torch despite a recommendation not to do so. Coles was banned for two years from the IOC for accepting excessive hospitality by bid cities. But Coles says he will run his leg along Bondi Beach, which he is entitled to do as a three-time Australian Olympian in kayaking.

Business leaders in Sydney were told to “turn a blind eye” to long lunches during the 2000 Games. Margy Osmond, chief of the New South Wales State Chamber of Commerce also suggested casual dress codes and the use of television sets in offices so workers do not feel they have to stay at home to see, what for many was likely to be the experience of their lives. She also forecast that Sydney’s 4.5 million people would eat more takeaway food and take greater advantage of home delivery services and late-night shopping stores. And Maggie White from the Australian Tourist Commission said 111,000 international visitors expected in Sydney were likely to have two main interests outside the Games, trading Olympic pins and shopping.

Ron Christie, head of Sydney’s rail system, said rail network problems are unlikely to be solved before the Games, but despite problems, it would cope with the pressure of a 19 hour-a-day peak service for 19 days. Use of Sydney’s rail system would increase from 2,400 services on weekends and 3,000 on weekdays to 3,600 during the Games. But he warned that trains would be constantly crowded, delays would occur and problems would happen.

Thirsty? The Coca-Cola Co. said it would have new policies in place on the use of ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) in refrigeration by the 2004 Olympics. Greenpeace has targeted the company accusing Coke of breaking “Green Games” environmental guidelines, including bans on HFC’s at Olympic sites. The guidelines formed an integral part of Sydney’s Olympic bid. Greenpeace CEO Thilo Bode wrote to officially congratulate the company and said its new refrigeration policy could be one of the most important legacies of Sydney’s Olympic Games. Greenpeace said it hopes to continue working with Coke to overcome any hurdles in delivering its new policy and to work with other companies as well.

NBC expects to make a small profit with its broadcast of the Sydney Olympics. The company paid $705 million for the rights to the 2000 Olympics as part of a $3.5 billion package that gives the network exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the next five Games, through 2008. NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said the company had anticipated losing money with the Sydney Games in the environs of $50-75 million. Also NBC expects to sell nearly $1 billion in advertising. It has already sold more advertising than the record sum from the Atlanta Games in 1996. And the company has signed up EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network for its Olympics package on CNBC and MSNBC. Dish’s addition means that so far 65 million subscribers are on board for the Games from Sydney, the first to ever air on basic cable.

A group called Protest 2000 is predicting daily protests involving 20,000 people at Olympic Park during the Games. The group wants to coordinate demonstrations to highlight injustices faced by Australia’s indigenous population and is looking for coverage from the foreign media. It’s been reported that Protest 2000 is planning to erect a tent city at Olympic Park, the main Olympic precinct at Homebush Bay, despite official rejection of the proposal from Games organizers.

The International Committee is giving permission to a request that North and South Korea march together at the Olympic opening ceremony on September 15. Jacques Rogge, head of the coordination commission, which overlooks preparations for the Summer Games, said, “if the two Koreas want to march together, we will give our approval. It would be a very symbolic gesture”. But the two countries would compete separately as their athletes had qualified to represent their individual countries.

Work on the Olympic speed skating oval finally resumed last week in Salt Lake City, following an April 19 roof collapse. An engineering miscalculation caused eight bolts to crack apart, flinging loose a 3-1/2 inch cable and bringing down part of the Olympic speed skating oval’s roof. Insurers for the building’s designer and contractor will pay for the $2 million retrofit. During the 2002 Winter Games, the oval will host 10 speed skating events in 12 days.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) is two-thirds of the way toward recruiting the 26,000 volunteers needed to help stage the 2002 Olympic Games and Paralympic Winter Games. SLOC has signed up 19,000 volunteers to date through its web site www.saltlake2002.com. SLOC has been the first Olympic organizing committee to use the Internet as its primary method of registering volunteers. Ninety-eight per cent of applicants have filed electronically, while only two per cent have submitted handwritten, hard copy forms.

And finally, more than 300 NBC officials who are in Salt Lake City preparing for the Olympic Games were briefed on Australian slang. Some examples. If an Australian is working hard, he would be “flat out like a lizard drinking”. Or she might hope the “mossies” (mosquitoes) leave her alone after “brekkie” (breakfast) when she goes to see “footy” (soccer). Shades of Waltzing Matilda!