Fun before the Games

Dave Hadfield reports from Sydney on the rows besetting the build-up

They now know which Australian will open the Olympic Games in Sydney next September, but not which Australians will be there to see them.

They now know which Australian will open the Olympic Games in Sydney next September, but not which Australians will be there to see them.

One controversy surrounding the Millennium Games was defused last week when the Prime Minister, John Howard, announced that he was standing down in favour of the Governor General, Sir William Deane, for the starring role at the opening ceremony.

They have little doubt in Australia that Howard, with the next election in his sights, wanted the job, but public outcry gave him little choice. Those annoyed by his role in the referendum vote that decided to stick with the monarchy argued that, having campaigned to keep the Queen, it would be unacceptable for him to supplant her representative - the Duke of Edinburgh did the honours at Melbourne in 1956 - at the opening on 15 September.

But that still leaves the scandal of the ticketing arrangements largely unresolved. Having sold the Games to the nation on the basis that the ordinary Australian would be first in the queue for seats at the events, the government and organisers have been accused of creaming off too many of the best seats for VIPs and corporate customers.

"It was probably always going to be that way, like it has been at other Games," said one insider this week. "The trouble was that we gave the impression it was going to be different this time. Since that, we've been victims of our own success, because of the demand for tickets."

The organisers have been forced to produce extra tickets for public sale like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat. But if the whole affair has disillusioned Sydneysiders over the egalitarian credentials of the Games, it has done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm for watching them. As well as the obvious athletics, swimming and basketball finals being sold out long ago, less mainstream disciplines like rowing and kayaking are also over-subscribed.

The preparations for the Games have been a highly visible phenomenon, with the main stadiums rising from the wasteland that was the suburb of Homebush. Test events have also kept the profile high. This weekend sees Australia play Brazil at football in Stadium Australia, while a couple of hundred yards away, Australia also play in the semi-finals of baseball's Inter Continental Cup.

The only facilities that remain to be completed at Olympic Park are the tennis arena and the main press centre. Visiting media are promised the biggest and most convenient working area the Olympic Games have seen. Some might be rather less impressed to know that their accommodation is normally used for housing the livestock at the Royal Easter Show.

The joke in town is that the cattle sheds will no longer need to be hosed down once a day - twice a day should be adequate. But the Olympics cannot get away from controversy. Take the relatively laid-back sport of beach volleyball. The blueprint for next September shows the construction of a 10,000-seater stadium, which virtually splits Bondi Beach in two.

They are up in arms in the seaside suburb. You can get away with a lot, as the organisers have already proved with their ticketing fiasco, but youmust not deface an Australian icon.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz