May 24, 2000

A majority of Australians are now saying they have no interest in the Olympic Games, which begin in less than four months on Sept. 15. According to a survey by Morgan Gallup, only 49 per cent of people over the age of 14 say they have any interest in the Games, down six points from the February result and 17 on a similar poll held more than a year ago.

But there’s some good news for the Sydney Olympics. The annual New South Wales State budget shows that the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games have been completely paid for. The net cost of staging both Games over the 10-year- construction period increased by nearly 100 million Australian dollars to 1.37 billion Australian Dollars.

Meanwhile Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins has encouraged Aborigines from across Australia to converge on Sydney to protest peacefully during the Olympic Games. He said it was the perfect opportunity for Aboriginal people to tell the world about the racist nation Australia has become. But it’s already begun. A small group of indigenous Chomorro people greeted the Olympic torch in the island nation of Guam with a peaceful demonstration. And the torch relay can expect to meet similar peaceful indigenous protests at every stop through the Pacific, said Sydney protest organizer Lyle Munro.

Because of safety concerns in Fiji due to political problems, the Olympic torch relay could bypass this South Pacific island nation.

A three-day Mock siege in Canberra, Australia called Exercise Ring True is part of security preparations for the Olympics. And Sydney will fall victim to “terrorists” using biological, chemical or radiological weapons. The exercise involves all arms of Olympic security and emergency services in Sydney and Canberra, and will be the final dress rehearsal before the Games begin.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis urged his ministers at a meeting recently to speed up work and catch up with preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, following last month’s serious warning from the International Olympic Committee. Government spokesman Tilemahos Hytiris said after the meeting “the Prime Minister stressed that any law needed to facilitate work for the Olympics should be prepared and brought to parliament now”. Simitis asked the Culture Ministry, which has most of the responsibility for the Games, to draft a special law for the Games in the next few days. The laws are aimed at freeing the hands of the organizing committee, which faces major delays in key areas such as hotel accommodation, venues and television coverage due to bureaucracy and a plethora of government officials involved.

And finally, for the first time central authorities voiced their support for Beijing’s 2008 Olympic bid. Premier Zhu Rongji said the Chinese Government will pay great attention to the Beijing’s Municipal Governments bid and help “create good conditions in all areas for Beijing’s bid”. The premier said it is the common aspiration of all Chinese people that Beijing applies to host the 2008 Olympics on behalf of China, and he noted that it will lead to the popularization of the Olympic spirit in China. He continued that China has witnessed remarkable achievements over the past 20 years through reform and opening to the outside world, and Beijing has been developing and changing rapidly. “All these preparations have laid a solid foundation for the city’s bid to host the Olympic Games” he said.

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