Jun. 28/2000

It’s a first. Continuing on its 16,700 mile-tour of Australia, the Olympic flame traveled under water for two minutes and 40 seconds on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Tuesday. The torch was powered by a special chemical formula, and was powerful enough to light up the reef located off the resort town of Port Douglas, about 1100 miles north of the state capital of Brisbane. A team of chemists and engineers from a pyrotechnics company took nine months perfecting the flare to ensure it was able to burn underwater for several minutes. Chemicals, which create the flare, were loaded at high pressure into a steel tube and produced enough gases, like oxygen and nitrogen, to maintain the flame. The flame burned so fiercely it stopped the three-meter-deep water from entering the tube and extinguishing it.

The New South Wales state government is the recipient of the $35 million Olympic Village, which will house more than 15,000 athletes and officials during Sydney’s Games. Its 513 houses, 355 apartments and 336 modular homes will be added to the new Sydney suburb of Newington next year. Greenpeace spokesperson Corin Millais said, “it’s one of the genuine success stories of the green Games”. All permanent homes use solar power, have a four-star energy efficiency rating, 90 per cent of waste material is recycled and environmentally sustainable materials are used. The village centre has a shopping mall, community facilities including a meeting hall, sports results distribution centre, a 650-seat restaurant, religious centre, gym and dance club and a full range of medical services. The first athletes move into the village on September 2.

New South Wales rail workers have signed an agreement, meaning the Olympics would be free of industrial action from transport unions. Public transport workers will work flexible hours and not strike during the Olympics in return for $4 ($2.40 U.S.) an hour pay increase. The total cost of the pay increase was $16 million and would operate from September 15 to October 1. The new pay deal was separate from a special Olympic allowance, which was still being negotiated for 8,000 public servants, including police, nurses and office workers whose work or family life will be disrupted by the Olympics.

Looking for a volunteer job? Sydney’s 2000 Olympic organizers have admitted they still need to recruit at least 12,000 more volunteers before the September Olympic Games. Ian Clubb, who is coordinating the Olympic volunteer workforce, said 37,000 non-paid staff had been secured but many more were needed to ensure the Olympics was a success. Another 1500 paid staff were still required to work in the transport, sport competition, logistics, spectator services and accreditation areas. But if Sydney’s too far, there’s always Toronto, should the city get to host the 2008 Summer Games. And you can start volunteering right now.

Buyer beware! Fake Aboriginal artwork mass-produced overseas, are being sent to Australia to be painted by backpackers, and Olympic tourists are being warned not to buy them. But National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association chairman Charles Perkins said a label of authenticity for indigenous art, launched by his organization, would help protect tourists. The label is also intended to prevent counterfeits circulating on the market. The Aboriginal art industry is worth 200 million Australian dollars (120 million U.S.) a year to the Australian economy with an extra 30 million Australian dollars expected to come from the Olympics alone.

The Army to the rescue. The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City will get expertise and equipment from the U.S. Army to help safeguard the winter Games. Army Secretary Louis Caldera said, “you have to have a concern for possible acts of terrorism”. The Army, a partner in the Utah Public Safety Command for the Olympics, can help fight terrorism by providing aircraft for SWAT teams, advanced communications, bomb squads and bomb-sniffing dogs, fences and barriers, security sensors and metal detectors. Caldera received a series of briefings on the Games and learned that security planning was 80 per cent complete. That puts Utah Public Safety Commissioner Craig Dearden’s effort farther ahead in Olympic planning than any previous host city, said Mickey Ibarra, President Clinton’s director of intergovernmental affairs.

There’s not going to be as much affordable housing as was first thought, when Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics ends. At one time there was talk of perhaps 1000 units built for media covering the Games, with 42 per cent of the units to become moderately priced apartments and condominiums. But now, developers are looking at just 330 Olympic units in the Gateway district of west Salt Lake City, with 157 of those classified as affordable. A coalition of groups representing low-income, ethnic minority and disadvantaged communities calling themselves Salt Lake Impact 2002 and Beyond, urged Mayor Rocky Anderson to get the projects back on track. The developer said it is difficult to put together all the elements of such a project; private money, federal grants, tax credits, city loans, housing groups and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Investigators now have more time to prepare arguments and possibly file charges against former Salt Lake Olympic president Tom Welch. The Justice Department and attorneys for Welch have waived a deadline to prepare arguments and file charges in the Olympic bribery investigation without rushing to beat a five-year statute of limitations, the standard in most federal cases.

And finally, it seems that Greece does not have the expertise to protect athletes, officials and visitors at the 2004 Olympics, according to the head of police. Police will seek the training to protect the tens of thousands who will be in Greece for the Games. Security has become a top concern for the Games following criticism of Greece’s law enforcement record in the wake of the terrorist assassination of a British Diplomat.