Financial chaos at Olympic stadium

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The Independent Online

Politicians and banks in Australia are warning of the imminent financial collapse of the stadium that hosted the 2000 Olympic Games.

Politicians and banks in Australia are warning of the imminent financial collapse of the stadium that hosted the 2000 Olympic Games.

In a week in which the project to rebuild Wembley hit the buffers, it has emerged that Stadium Australia, the company set up to build and run the venue, could face bankruptcy.

Despite the success of the games, dubbed the "best ever" by International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, the stadium has failed to attract any business since then.

The share performance of Stadium Australia gives an indication of the collapse in investor confidence. Having floated in November 1998 at A$5 (180p), the price has lost more than 98 per cent and last week hit an all-time low of just 7 cents per share.

The group is now making an operating loss of about A$1m a month, and its major backer, the Australia & New Zealand Bank, is still owed A$125m. It has given Stadium Australia until 30 September to prove it is viable, but analysts do not believe it will manage the feat.

Before its float, Stadium Australia persuaded investors that the high quality of the venue would attract other sports after the Olympics. It has tried to attract events from the country's biggest sports ­ rugby league, rugby union and Aussie Rules ­ but interest has been negligible because those sports already have well-established grounds.

"It is now clear that the post-Olympic plan was largely rhetoric," said Liberal politician Chris Hartcher. "The stadium is not even bringing in peanuts, and the huge capital investment in the Olympics will leave state finances haemorrhaging for years to come."

Stadium finances are also causing political arguments in Ireland. The government was forced to defend its plans for a Ir£1bn (£790m) national stadium ­ the pet project of the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern ­ against accusations of spiralling costs.

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