The Guardian February 9, 2000


On track to Olympic debt

"The cheque's in the mail" is the familiar refrain of debtors playing 
for time. Last year the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 
(SOCOG) sang that very tune, claiming they'd sent cheques to compensate 
over 9,000 people who had paid for tickets which were already sold (at 
inflated prices to business interests and wealthy individuals).

When the people complained that they hadn't received their cheques, SOCOG 
blamed the delay on Australia Post. Last week the Olympic body was forced 
to admit that the delay was not caused by a mail system fault at all: the 
cheques were never printed.

With each revelation and backslide the slogan, "The People's Games", looks 
increasingly irrelevant. Take, for example, the 1.5 million tickets under 
$20 which SOCOG alleged it had set aside for schools and the disadvantaged. 
That amount has now been reduced to 735,000.

No one should be surprised, either, that taxpayers are being set up to foot 
the bill for a $180 million Games budget shortfall. SOCOG was due to return 
$30 million to NSW but this will now go to prop up its collapsing economic 
structure. SOCOG is also looking to cut around $100 million from its 
operating budget.

This will mean job cuts: not, of course, the fat cats driving the gravy 
train.

In addition the International and Australian Olympic Committees will each 
pass up $11.6 million of their profit share, while the possibility has been 
floated that the Carr Government will forego part of the $406 million it is 
to receive from SOCOG for venue rental. Most of the Olympic venues are 
owned by the government i.e. paid for by the people of NSW.

It is anybody's guess as to the size of the outstanding debt we'll have to 
pay off at the end of September.

There is, finally, the little matter of the government supplying SOCOG with 
the cheapest of labour. NSW public servants will be offered four months 
paid leave  no strings attached  to work for SOCOG in the lead up to, 
and during, the Games.

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