May 30, 2000

The Olympic Coordination Authority, the construction and venue management arm of the Sydney organizing committee, has made its final payment for a Sydney Olympics venue. It presented a cheque for $396,332 to John Holland Construction for extension work on the Ryde Aquatic Center. The facility will play host to water polo events during the Summer Olympics.

According to Sydney Olympics security chiefs, the joint counter-terrorism exercise Ring True was an overwhelming success, but a debriefing was needed to review the body count. New South Wales state police commissioner Peter Ryan said six terrorists and four hostages had been “killed” during mock sieges at Olympic venues in Sydney and Canberra. Ryan said visiting police acted as terrorists and hostages while international intelligence agencies had reviewed the security strategies and given organizers a solid competency rating. But the elite army units simulating a terrorist attack went a little too far and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the Olympic softball stadium. Commandos stormed the Aquilina softball stadium in Blacktown, kicking down doors, smashing windows and flattening walls. However there are measures in place to repair any damage incurred in the exercises as quickly as possible. The cost of repairs was factored into the overall cost of the exercise, which will come out of the New South Wales state budget.

Meanwhile members of the Palestine Olympic Committee have protested against the Sydney Games organizer’s decision to mount a plaque honoring 11 Israeli athletes killed in a guerrilla attack at the 1972 Games in Munich. The Sydney 2000 Games organizing committee mounted the plaque below a lighting tower in an enclosed area of the Homebush Olympic Park, about 20 metres from the main Olympic stadium. International Olympic Committee director-general Francois Carrard stressed that the mounting of the plaque was an entirely private initiative on the part of the Sydney Organizing Committee. The plaque was unveiled last September in Sydney, funded by four members of Sydney’s Jewish community and was not located in an official Olympic site.

Australia Jewish sports officials were urged by Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia Israel and Jewish affairs Council, to boycott the Israeli Olympic team when it arrived in Sydney, as a protest of the 1997 Maccabiah Games bridge collapse in which four Australians died. Rubinstein said that no Australian (Jewish) official should meet the Israeli Olympic team otherwise the result could be the painful specter of Jews in Australia demonstrating against the Israeli team.

The June 3 torch relay leg to Fiji has been cut because of security problems since armed rebels stormed Fiji’s national parliament May 19 and took the prime minister and members of his cabinet hostage. The Olympic flame and torch relay staff would stay two days in Tonga before flying to New Zealand as scheduled on June 5.

More problems for the 2004 Athens Games. A group concerned about environmental damage promised to fight a court decision allowing the 2004 Olympic village to be built on the outskirts of Athens. The group made up of writers, environmentalists and architects will take the issue to the European Union. This could create problems for the village, which will house 16,000 athletes and be built on the epicenter of a killer earthquake that killed 139 people last September and forced 100,000 into shelters.

Salt Lake City’s organizing committee has released a 28-page memo written in the 1990’s that was an apparent blueprint for influencing International Olympic Committee (IOC) members. The memo details the personalities and family needs of IOC members prior to Salt Lake winning the 2002 Olympic bid. Meanwhile the Justice Department has told the organizing committee that it will not be indicted in the bribery scandal stemming from the Olympic bid. But the department stressed that individuals involved in the scandal had not been cleared.

And finally, Olympic VIP’s and corporate sponsors are making a claim on their share of venue seats at the 2002 Winter Games before tickets go on sale to the public in October. The Salt Lake organizing committee is now halfway toward its goal of raising $83 million from new sponsors to balance its $l.32 billion budget. Sponsors have applied to buy more than $90 million in tickets for seats and luxury boxes at Rice-Eccles Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies and the E Center, where men’s hockey will be played.