Olympics: Sydney `failed to capitalise` on 2000 Games

Sydney: Sydney missed out on a tourism and
conventions bonanza by failing to build on its successful 2000
Olympics, a senior official said on Wednesday, tempering lavish
10-year anniversary celebrations.

Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates said
convention facilities in the country`s biggest and best known
city were now "inferior", criticising a lack of investment.

"The area I`m critical ultimately of is there wasn`t
further investment in promoting Sydney and getting events here
in convention space, which is inferior in this city now,"
Coates told journalists.

The Sydney Games, which kicked off exactly 10 years ago,
are often described as the best Olympics in history after
blending sporting drama with smooth organisation and a
convivial atmosphere, against a stunning physical backdrop.

But a 2007 study by Monash University`s Centre of Policy
Studies found the harbour city and its surrounding state, New
South Wales, suffered a 2.1 billion dollar (1.98 billion US)
loss from hosting the Games.

And despite a rapid population rise from 4.1 to 4.5
million people, rail and road transport infrastructure is
largely unchanged, while conference facilities are limited and
often ageing.

Meanwhile Australian tourism revenue has also dwindled
from record highs in the 1990s, hit by the strengthening local
currency and competition from other destinations.

"To be fair 9/11 happened, and to be fair there`s been
some financial crises over the last 10 years," Coates said, in
reference to the September 11 attacks of 2001.

"But certainly if there was a lesson to be learned, it`s
that you can`t just host a Games and think the tourism and the
conventions will necessarily follow."

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said Coates was
"spot-on" with his analysis, adding that the British capital
was already preparing for the post-Games period.

"Legacy... is not something that simply falls in your lap
because you get to the end of the Olympics and Paralympic
Games and everything just takes off," he said. "You really
have to plan for it."

Australian Olympic legends Ian Thorpe, Cathy Freeman and
Jamaica`s Usain Bolt are among the athletes in Sydney for the
10-year commemorations, along with thousands of fans,
officials and former volunteers.

The event will culminate in Freeman`s ceremonial
re-lighting of the Olympic cauldron, reprising 2000`s
agonising moment when a technical hitch delayed proceedings
for about four minutes.

Australian media gave blanket coverage to the
celebrations, although the Sydney Morning Herald also sounded
a note of regret in an editorial headlined, "Sydney as it
ought to be".

"Ten years on Sydney seems still to be suffering from
post-Games let-down," it said.

"The Olympic venues work well, but have had a troubled
financial history. The main Olympic site has not become a hub
of activity... public transport has reverted to its pre-Games
standards, helped by decades of under-investment."

A newspaper also put progress into perspective
when it called an online ballot for filming of the Oprah
Winfrey show "Sydney`s biggest ticket scramble since that
other big O -- the Olympics".

Bureau Report