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Olympic Business On IOC Agenda

February 11, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ The trouble-shooters are coming and the serious issues of the Olympics are on the agenda.

Seven months out from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission, headed by Jacques Rogge, is holding a series of meetings in Sydney starting Friday to gauge Sydney’s preparedness.

IOC executive board meetings will follow Feb. 16-18.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch will lead the high-level board meetings against a backdrop of local political infighting between SOCOG, the organizers, and the New South Wales state government, underwriters of the Games.

In the last 18 months, SOCOG has lurched from one controversy to another, from allegations of corruption at the helm to sponsorship shortfalls, culminating last week with revelations of yet another ticket fiasco and a $123 million budget blowout.

In a plan devised by Michael Knight, the Olympics minister and president of SOCOG, the government, the IOC and the Australian Olympic Committee combined to help bail out the struggling organizers by agreeing to forgo their shares of any budget surplus.

As a tradeoff, the government stripped SOCOG of the bulk of its operational responsibilities, which were transferred to the government-controlled Olympic Coordination Authority.

Knight said the changes were made because the government wanted a ``more hands-on approach″ to hosting the Games, but the move exposed a lack of confidence in the organizing committee.

He said recent changes within SOCOG, including the appointment of new managers last week, had made the organization ``well positioned to deliver the Games before the eyes of the world.″

Other issues will also come under the microscope during this week’s IOC meetings as delegates bid to ensure there’s no repeat of the operational problems which marred the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The Olympic Impact Coalition, comprising a number of welfare and green lobby groups, is planning protests to coincide with the IOC meetings and, with Samaranch rejecting high-level security, Games security staff and plans will be fully tested.

Transport, catering, accommodation and the impact of the Games on the environment will also be in the spotlight.

In the buildup to the IOC meetings, Knight said it was time for organizers to decrease their profile in the media.

``With the fundamentals in place, it might be possible for myself and other organizers to be less prominent in the media and make space for the athletes, sponsors and the public so that they can get some joy out of their Olympics,″ he said.

With that he launched a thinly veiled attack on his deputy, Sandy Holloway, following a ticket estimation error which created a potential $48 million deficit in revenue.

Knight on Friday rejected published reports that Holloway was on the verge of being fired, issuing a statement saying he had full confidence in his chief executive.

``Sandy is a very valuable member of the Sydney 2000 team and I fully expect him to be SOCOG CEO at the time of the Games,″ he said.

Another SOCOG board meeting is scheduled for next week. In the meantime staff have been ordered to find budget cuts of more than $22 million, which is expected to result in staff reductions.

SOCOG has a history of upheaval at the helm, which resulted in Knight maneuvering for and then assuming the roles of minister and president.

Businessman Gary Pemberton was the first chief executive of SOCOG, combining the role with the presidency, but he quit citing the growing political influence as a major reason.

John Illiffe replaced him as president but resigned within a year.

Holloway was appointed to succeed his former boss Mal Hammerling, who was forced to resign as chief executive in 1997.

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