Progress overshadowed by scandals for Sydney Olympic organisers

With about nine months to go before the opening ceremonies, the return of sport as the central focus of the Olympics will not come soon enough for the organisers of the Sydney 2000 Games.

With about nine months to go before the opening ceremonies, the return of sport as the central focus of the Olympics will not come soon enough for the organisers of the Sydney 2000 Games.

Despite being ahead of schedule on venue construction, transport and other planning, it seemed that in 1999 no news was good news for the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG).

Even a string of international victories and tumbling records by Australian sportspeople was not enough to lift a pall of public anger which settled over the committee after a series of scandals and blunders - some beyond its control and some of its own making.

The year started badly with news breaking over the scandal over International Olympic Committee members accepting lavish gifts and travel from bidding cities. While Salt Lake City was the primary focus of bribery allegations, it was almost inevitable that Sydney would become caught up.

Sydney became tainted when Australian Olympic Committee head John Coates admitted that on the eve of the IOC vote at which Sydney won the Games, he offered two African delegates 35,000 Australian dollars (22,500 US dlrs) each to fund sporting bodies in their countries.

The scandal became a running sore in Australia when IOC member Phil Coles, who was reprimanded by the IOC for accepting travel and hospitality from Salt Lake City bidders, refused to step down from the Sydney organizing committee board.

Pressure on Coles intensified midyear when it was revealed dossiers including personal notes on IOC members which he had prepared had been passed to Salt Lake City bid officials. After community outrage and none-too-subtle pressure behind the scenes, Coles in June resigned as a SOCOG vice-president.

SOCOG president Michael Knight blamed the IOC scandal for souring public enthusiasm for the Games and making sponsors wary. In May he announced organizers had cut the expected revenue from the Games by 71 million Australian dollars (about 46 million US dlrs), including almost 50 million Australian dollars (32.5 million US dlrs) in sponsorship.

Knight could not blame the IOC for a fiasco over student marching bands at the Games' opening ceremony.

In June, Knight canceled a contract that would have supplied a 2,000-strong marching band made up mostly of American and Japanese students. The move was apparently triggered by a talkback radio campaign which demanded the band members be Australian.

But Knight was forced into an embarrassing backdown when band organizers took SOCOG to court for breach of contract, and agreed to pay American company World Projects Corp. an extra 1 million Australian dollars (650,000 US dlrs).

Worse for SOCOG in the public eye was a debacle late in the year over ticketing.

After SOCOG promised 3.5 million tickets would be available through a ballot system, Australians lodged a record more than 320,000 applications, paying SOCOG around 180 million Australian dollars (115 million US dlrs) in advance for the chance to see the events they nominated.

But in December it was revealed SOCOG advertising campaigns and promotional material had been misleading and only 3 million tickets had been offered to the general public. Worse still, a pool of 840,000 of the best Games tickets had been set aside for high rollers prepared to pay premium prices.

The public was outraged. Critics included the public face of the SOCOG's ticketing campaign, cricket hero Mark Taylor, champion swimmer Ian Thorpe and Prime Minister John Howard.

SOCOG finished the year in damage control, firing ticketing chief Paul Reading - who described himself as SOCOG's "ugly face of capitalism" - and releasing 525,000 more tickets to the public.

Furthering SOCOG's woes have been continuing problems meeting the 2.7 million Australian dollars (1.75 million US dlrs) budget.

In December, SOCOG again revised the amount of forecast sponsorship revenue, this time by up to 100 million Australian dollars (65 million US dlrs) and appointed a management team to find areas to slash spending to make up the difference.

Also in December, Reebok pulled out as a main sponsor of the Sydney Games and initiated legal proceedings against SOCOG over clothing rights. But the IOC and the local committee quickly announced that Nike would take Reebok's place.

Even as the scandals rattled through SOCOG's inner-city headquarters, the main Olympic site at Homebush Bay took on the buzz of excitement as the first major sporting events were held to test facilities and transport.

The main Olympic Stadium Australia was opened in March and coped comfortably with crowds of more than 100,000 people. Throughout the year it hosted international events including rugby, a National Football League preseason game between Denver and San Diego and soccer matches.

Also at Homebush, Thorpe was the hometown hero of the Pan Pacific swimming championships in August in the pool which will be used for the Olympics. More than a dozen world records were broken, including by Thorpe, South Africa's Penny Heyns and American Lenny Krayzelburg.

Almost all venues have been completed, and a comprehensive test event schedule is about half way through and on track to have every venue tried out by the time the Games start on September 15.

Sports-mad at the worst of times, Australia had an exceptional year in 1999, winning world cups in cricket and rugby, tennis' Davis Cup and scoring international victories in women's hockey and netball.

With public awareness growing that the Games are just short months away, Sydney organizers will be hoping euphoria at hosting the world's largest sporting event will replace the sour taste left after 1999.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?