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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Heli Ski Specialist

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: ACS qualified Domestic Gas Brea...

Recruitment Genius: Product Packager / Stock Assistant

£16250 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Product Packager / Stock Assistant is ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen