Sydney Wins the Gold

September 24, 1993

The International Olympic Committee voted, in the end, to hold the Summer Games of 2000 in winter. It opted for stability over political anxiety. It succumbed to infrastructure in place rather than grandiose building plans.

The IOC chose a favored small country that hosted the games in 1956 rather than the most populous country on earth or the first Islamic host. The IOC made the safe choice. It decided that the Games are for the athletes and not for statements about grand historical development.

Welcome to Sydney, mate.

Actually, the Summer Games of 2000 won't be in winter. They will be held Sept. 16 to Oct. 1. Spring in Australia. Most of the venues already exist. All are within 65 miles of the Olympic Village to be built. That is good news. The bad news is Sydney is so far from everywhere the athletes will suffer jet lag for weeks, depressing performance.

Sydney is an "in" city the world's young adults want to go to, along with Seattle, Vancouver and Prague. Perhaps it will be out by 2000. The organizers project a $4 million profit on costs of $975 million. They have good imaginations.

The bad news is that noon in Baltimore is 3 a.m. tomorrow in Sydney. Live television will be a day old. All those late night talk-show clones will be doing warm-ups for the water polo.

The first problem to be dealt with is the rage of the disappointed -- Beijing, Manchester, Berlin and Istanbul. In Berlin, this is tinged with relief. Berliners had threatened to riot if their town won, having a different agenda for development. Despite the hype for China, the most alluring political pitch was for Istanbul, on the grounds that it is time for world bodies to recognize the coming-of-age of the Islamic world. Perhaps in 2004.

The main problem for Americans is the threat of China, entirely unofficial of course, to boycott the Atlanta Games of 1996 if Beijing didn't win. This would be deeply disappointing but is almost certain not to happen.

China wants to make its name in the Olympics as the Soviet Union, East Germany and Cuba did. And with the collapse of state sports in Russia and Germany, China's emerging prowess is likely to shine all the more in 1996. No self-respecting Chinese bureaucrat would wish, three years from now, to hide that under a barrel.

It's difficult to guess what China will be like in 2000, but Australia won't have changed much. Instead of a monarchy with the queen held in contempt, it will probably be a republic where she is respected. No one will notice the difference. That's really why the 89 members of the IOC chose Sydney. They want to know what they are getting.

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