March 16, 2000

If they don’t receive compensation for any inconvenience encountered on the job caused by Sydney’s Olympic Games, transport and emergency services workers are threatening strikes during the Olympics. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the Health and Research Employees Association have written to the New South Wales Labor Council asking for joint negotiations for all public sector employees. Council secretary Michael Costa said that under the Olympic allowance, workers could earn an extra 90 cents per hour for changes to working conditions during the Games.

There seems to be extra money available for security. The Australian government announced a security budget of $43 million for the Olympic Games and said more than 4,000 defence force personnel will be deployed to bolster the number of state police in Sydney. Australia’s special commando troops will begin a new round of Olympics training in May, and the Olympics force will also include operatives from the Australian Security and Intelligence Agency which is the equivalent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The force, expected to total 11,000, will be ready to deal with any terrorist threat swiftly and harshly, but will also be discreet. During the Games soldiers would help with searches of venues for suspicious items, bomb disposal, underwater searches of ships and waterways and transport of some Olympic officials, particularly those involved with drug testing.

It’s also about money. Dancers performing during the Sydney Olympics are being asked to perform for nothing, although the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance was able to secure decent wages for popcorn sellers and security guards. New South Wales state secretary Michel Hryce said ceremonies master Ric Birch had a $50 million (AUS.) budget but only wanted to pay technicians, the production team, and consultants to train performers. She said, “the union never had any intention to call for professional performers to be in the Games”.

Sema Group, a French-English computer company, is taking IBM’s place at the 2002 Games. IBM ends its 38 year-partnership with the International Olympic Committee after the Sydney Games. Sema was chosen in December 1998 to be the chief Olympic information and technology sponsor from 2001 to 2008. The company will be responsible for providing or coordinating such diverse details as event results, media and athlete accreditation, accommodation and transportation of participants, and standard office functions including payroll and inventory control. The company has about 30 employees at work now in Salt Lake City, with another 20 expected by the end of the year, and support teams in Barcelona and Madrid.

Alfredo La Mont, a former USOC director of international affairs, is the first Olympic official charged in the Salt Lake City scandal. He is charged with, and has plead guilty to, creating a sham company to hide a consulting agreement with Salt Lake’s bid official, and failing to pay taxes on $40,000 he received in 1997 from Rome’s bid committee. The Rome bid committee for the 2004 Summer Olympics acknowledged that it had hired La Mont as a consultant, to help it on an international level. He advised the committee about the strengths and weaknesses of its project. The committee said it was all out in the open and there was nothing improper about the relationship. The first charge carries a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine, and the second can bring a three-year sentence and a $100,000 fine. La Mont has agreed to help the Justice Department investigation, which is expected to conclude within a year.

And finally, Salt Lake City’s Olympic trustees voted not to release a list of documents subpoenaed by federal investigators looking into the Salt Lake scandal. The attorneys fear the Salt Lake Organizing Committee could break grand jury secrecy rules by revealing some of the evidence gathered by the U.S. Justice Department. They also decided to withhold details of Delta Air Lines flight arrangements during Salt Lake’s early bid efforts, detailing which IOC members traveled and where they went at bid committee or Delta expense. And a request filed by a journalist working for a Salt Lake City publication was turned down 14-1 by the trustees. The journalist was testing the limits of the committee’s open-records policy.