May 11, 2000

Construction of a 10,000-seat Olympic beach volleyball stadium began last Monday on Bondi-Beach, while 50 police stood guard. It followed a confrontation between police and about 100 people when workers first moved on the site at about 7a.m. local time. After an eight-hour stand-off, six protestors who had buried themselves neck-deep in sand, were dragged away by uniformed police and the remaining protesters were overwhelmed by more than 130 police. But more than 50 demonstrators returned early the next day and vowed to continue their campaign and disrupt the Games. Bondi Olympic Watch spokesman Kevin St. Alder, one of the leaders of Monday’s protest, said his group would continue its fight. The protestors say the stadium will be an environmental disaster for Bondi Beach.

New South Wales state police and the Australian Defense Force launched the joint taskforce Operation Gold Flame counter-terrorism program last week with a mock terrorist situation at the Navy’s HMAS Penguin base on Sydney Harbor. Operation Gold Flame was an ongoing and very public exercise designed to harmonize links between military, police and other state and federal agencies, demonstrate capability and “act as a deterrent to anyone imagining an attack on our security system” said Olympic Security Command Center head Paul McKinnon. The overall program will encompass about 35,000 people, including 4,000 military personnel. Up to 1,000 personnel would be detailed to anti-terrorism assignments.

Trade unions have threatened to paralyze public transportation during the Sydney 2000 Olympics if the New South Wales State government fails to agree to special pay claims for workers. Union officials have given the government 14 days to agree to the new allowance after negotiations stalled.

The Australian Civil Aviation Authority last week granted permission for the Olympic flame to be flown from Greece to Sydney. A specially designed cradle, fitted to aircraft seats, will carry the flame on its 23 flights during the torch relay. It will fly business class, under the constant supervision of a Sydney Olympic Games Organizing Committee representative and with at least one fire extinguisher within reach at all times. The torch must not be refilled on board the aircraft and cannot be refueled on board.

Meanwhile, the torch carrying the flame to the Sydney Olympics was ignited Wednesday in a ceremony held in Ancient Olympia, Greece. Sydney organizers faced a wave of complaints following a decision to have 11-year-old Sophie Gosper, daughter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice-President Kevan Gosper, become the first Australian to carry the torch on its 100-day journey over 2700 kilometers. Gosper said he had nothing to do with the decision. He’s under investigation by the IOC’s ethics panel for allegedly accepting excessive hospitality from Salt Lake’s bidding committee. Gosper’s brother Peter carried the flame en route to the 1956 Olympic opening ceremony in Melbourne, his son Richard was involved in Atlanta in 1996 and Gosper himself was expected to run with it in Australia next months. The flame will travel for 10 days around Greece before being handed over May 20 to Sydney’s organizers in a special ceremony in Athens’ all-marble Panathenaic stadium, where the first modern Olympiad was held in 1896.

More problems for Sydney’s organizers. SOCOG lost almost $1 million Australian dollars last week when they mistakenly put athletes’ tickets on sale at half price, because of an error in the printed mail order form. Cheaper day-session prices for an evening athletics session was publicized in newspapers and as a result 12,704 tickets were sold. Tickets between $165 Australian ($100 U.S.) and $105 Australian were advertised for half price costing SOCOG $926,580 Australian.

Athens also has its problems. After receiving harsh criticism from the head of the International Olympic Committee regarding problems in preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece, and worried about losing the chance to host the Olympics, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki has been selected the new head of the Athens’ organizing committee. Greece also appointed a committee of government ministers headed by Premier Costas Simitis to oversee preparations.

Salt Lake is not exempt from problems. The Salt Lake Organizing (SLOC) Committee has refused to release a document that might be its blueprint for winning the support of specific International Olympic Committee members. It’s unclear if the document lists votes for sale and their asking price, or is simply a standard estimation of potential travel expenses and entertainment costs.

And finally, a message of encouragement for Toronto Olympic supporters posted on a discussion page from Billy of Sydney, Australia. Billy is counting down the “minutes, the hours and the seconds” until the Olympic Games in Australia. He thinks Toronto faces some tough competition from Beijing and to a lesser extent, Osaka. “But back in 1993 when Sydney was going through the bid process, Beijing was our main rival too. There was defeatist talk in the days leading up to the announcement, but we won, and are in the very final throes of preparing what will surely be the greatest Games ever”, says Billy. “When you watch the Games in September, think of me, I’ll be having the time of my life!”