Sydney Makes Bid To Play Host to Olympics in 2000

MELBOURNE tried and failed. Now, Sydney is going for the gold - the Olympic gold. Sydney is preparing to bid for the Olympic Games in the year 2000. Armed with up to A$20 million (US$16 million) for its bid from the New South Wales government, Sydney Olympics 2000, the bid committee, is starting to build new sports stadiums costing A$300 million. It is also preparing to blitz the business community starting this September for contributions. The cost of hosting the Olympics could A$1.6 billion, with revenues of A$1.65 billion.

So far Beijing, Berlin, and Manchester, England, have said they will battle for the athletes. Bras'ilia, Milan, and Paris might also bid. Cities have until Dec. 31, 1992, to declare themselves in the running. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce its decision in September 1993 in Monte Carlo.

Despite the strong competition, Sydney is relatively upbeat.

``Our strong points are our climate and our convenience of facilities,'' says Roderick McGeoch, a lawyer in charge of Sydney's bid. ``You keep coming back to intelligent people saying who has the best vehicle [for the Games] before they say anything else.''

To persuade the IOC members that Sydney is ready to play host to the Olympics, the building process has begun on a new aquatic center and four indoor pavilions at Homebush Bay, eight miles west of Sydney. But Sydney will also need to address infrastructure problems. Although Sydney's airport is inadequate even for current demand, plans to build either a third runway or a new airport west of the city have been delayed.

And the city would also have to upgrade its roads and its rail system. A key section of road on the way to the proposed Olympic site is a clogged pipeline of traffic. If the Olympic Games come to Sydney, officials will only allow mass transit to get people to the events.

Mr. McGeoch believes Sydney will also benefit from the experience of bidders from Melbourne and Brisbane for the 1992 Games, which both failed to win the Games. But he also expects to learn from Atlanta's successes. For example, Atlanta's core committee was a small and close-knit group. ``IOC members gained confidence that they [the Atlantans] were reliable and had integrity,'' McGeoch says. In addition, the Atlantans used southern charm - they never directly asked that IOC members vote for their city, and they never criticized other cities.

Mr. Deveney says Atlanta planned in advance. Several years ago it started giving sports scholarships to athletes from Eastern Europe and Africa. It helped other countries' teams train for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. On the home front, Deveney says Sydney should follow Atlanta's example of managing the local press. ``They limited any public criticism or concern about the games,'' he says. Melbourne newspapers, by contrast, wrote probing articles about the Games. Then, a citizen mailed the negative artic les to all the IOC members.

Sydney is already coming under some fire for its bid. ``We've put off hiring 2,500 teachers because we can't afford them. If we can't afford teachers, can we afford the Olympics?'' asks Richard Jones, a member of the New South Wales Parliament.

And federal Sen. Peter Walsh says people may view the Olympics as ``the easy path to riches.'' He notes that Australia has a history of costly overruns in public facilities, such as the new Parliament building and the Opera House. ``Estimates are not falsified, but they are extraordinarily optimistic,'' he notes.

The Sydney organizers will also have to persuade the Olympic members that television coverage can be adapted to the differences in time zones. Morning events in Sydney, for example, would make prime time television in North America; evening events would be very early morning in much of the United States. The organizers argue geographic location should not eliminate a city. And they point out that out of 38 Olympics held so far, there has been only one in the Southern Hemisphere - in Melbourne in 1956. S ydney hopes to make it two.

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