Olympic Games: How the other bids are shaping up

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The Independent Online
SYDNEY

IF HYPE and self-promotion were the criteria for success, Sydney would be well-placed to win the bid, writes Robert Milliken. Australia's largest city (population 4 million) has always been its most pushy and brash one, and already Sydney is promoting its image as the former convict outpost of the British empire turned thrusting international, multicultural metropolis.

Plans are considerably advanced. Sydney Olympic Park, as the venue has been named, is being built on the site of a large, derelict abattoir about 16km from the city centre. The city claims it will have 70 per cent of facilities finished by the time the International Olympic Committee makes its decision in September.

The big dispute among Sydneysiders is over money. The federal government has assisted with construction costs so far of dollars 225m ( pounds 158m). An additional dollars 1m ( pounds 700,000) has been spent preparing the bid. Detractors say it is wasted because the Games will never live up to the claim that they will make a profit of dollars 15m ( pounds 10.5m).

Sydney hopes to clinch the Games with its offer to overcome travelling costs to Australia by paying return air fares for athletes. It also argues that its time zone is ideal for live prime-time television coverage in America - even if Europeans will have to sit up all night to see the Games.

PEKING

THE people of Haiding, a district of Peking, knew the best way of drawing attention to the state of their public toilets, writes Raymond Whitaker. Instead of complaining yet again to the authorities, who had not sent anyone to clean them for five months, they wrote to the city's Olympic Bid Committee.

'At a time of energetic preparation to welcome the IOC inspection group, this kind of messy toilet really is a great loss of face for the people of Peking,' the letter said. Nothing compared to the face that will be lost if China's bid for the Games fails.

Visitors to the capital - venue for the Asian Games two years ago - might be forgiven for thinking it had already won. A film on Air China flights welcomes them to Peking, 'Olympic City 2000'. Billboards around the city repeat the message, while work brigades rush to complete a network of new roads, including a highway from the airport to the centre, before the inspection committee arrives next month.

With the single-mindedness of which only the world's last Communist superpower is capable, everything is being bent in China this year to winning the Games. It is the principal aim of foreign policy and is even thought to be one of the reasons why jailed dissidents are suddenly being released early.

China's people have not been consulted about the Olympic bid, nor is it likely that they will ever be told how much is being spent to attract the Games. Like Haiding's residents, they will simply seek to use their leaders' latest obsession to get out of it what they can.

BERLIN

THE Olympic bid from the once and future capital of a united Germany is seen in highly symbolic terms - by advocates and opponents alike, writes Steve Crawshaw. Athens has sought to use history to its advantage - with references to the cradle of the Olympic spirit, and all that. Berlin, by contrast is keen to live down the past and to come to terms with its legacy.

Hitler's Berlin Olympics in 1936 were a notorious occasion for Nazi propaganda on a grand scale. All sides are agreed that 1936 must, somehow, be buried. Among the Greens and some on the left, there are those who argue that the past is so potent that Berlin should not be bidding, full stop. But the Berlin authorities, with the full backing of the Bonn government are keen to use the symbolism to their advantage.

Controversy erupted last year over allegations that the Berliners had screened the IOC members - in other words the site selectors - for corruptibility, as part of a detailed analysis of each of them.

Berlin's bid, of which the details were revealed in a three-volume package last week, used mottos which directly addressed the painful questions of history: 'Peace, freedom and reconciliation', 'Berlin thanks the world', and 'Berlin has more bridges than Venice'.

On its journey from Athens to Berlin, the Olympic flame would stop off at Theresienstadt (Terezin), site of a Nazi concentration camp near Prague. Thus, the crimes of the past are seen as a reason for choosing Berlin, not for avoiding it.

Nobody has ever doubted Germany's capacity for good organisation. If that is the key to a successful Olympic bid, then Berlin's success would be assured.

MILAN

MILAN'S bid is taking place amid a distinct lack of public enthusiasm, writes Patricia Clough. The 'Milan 2000' promotion committee argues that the Games would help the city get over the trauma of its political corruption scandals, and attract investment and jobs at a time of economic crisis.

Not a single lira of the 1,400 billion lire ( pounds 640m) budget would come out of the public's pocket - it will all be financed by business and industry, like the Los Angeles games, the committee has promised. Nevertheless, there has been much opposition, especially from environmentalists and the city council agreed to Milan's candidacy by only 42-38. Since the vote on 30 January, the mayor and administration have resigned, leaving the city to a doubtful political future which may not help its cause.

BRASILIA

SOUTH AMERICA have never hosted the Olympics and Brasilia is unlikely to change that. Could count on the Latin vote in the IOC, but it is difficult to see how the capital of a country with huge international debts would pay for the Games. ISTANBUL

TURKEY'S inflation rate, 50 per cent, counts against the city's financial ability, while the Balkans and Iraq are too close for comfort. However, there are 12 Muslims among the IOC voters.

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