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ANALYSIS : It's a Gold-Medal Day for Athletes


MONTE CARLO — The prevailing view of the International Olympic Committee is that its members are royalty, or at least fabulously rich. In fact, some of them are, some are not. But even those who are not are treated as if they were when on official business for the IOC.

So it is sometimes difficult to believe that while they are luxuriating in one of the world's most elegant hotels, as they have been this week at the Hotel de Paris, they could possibly remember to represent the best interests of the people they are there to represent, the athletes.

Such cynicism was doused again Thursday, when, in a vote of 88 IOC members, Sydney, Australia, was selected as the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics on the last ballot over Beijing.

The decision could have gone the other way. The margin of victory was two votes. But because it did not, IOC members, at least the 45 who ultimately voted for Sydney, are to be credited for making the choice that is best for the young men and women who will compete there.

Three years ago, even though the IOC's inquiry commission endorsed Atlanta's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics, conventional wisdom said that the choice would be Athens, for sentimental reasons. It was a compelling argument, but the IOC chose to look forward to the next 100 years instead of backward to the last 100 and voted for the city that was most capable of organizing a modern Olympics.

This year, the inquiry commission report so clearly favored Sydney that the other candidates wondered whether it was worth their time, energy and money to continue. One, Brasilia, Brazil, decided that it was not and withdrew.

Of Sydney's bid, the report said:

--Offers conditions over and above IOC requirements.

--Safe environment.

--Widespread support from federal and state governments, business community and environmental groups.

--Compact. Competitors from 14 sports will be able to walk to venues.

--Gives priority to the athletes, particularly with construction of a single Olympic village.

--Foreign language speakers should not be a problem, with 140 ethnic groups living in Sydney. Commitment by 40,000 volunteers illustrates strength of local support.

--Free travel for all athletes and officials and free shipment of horses and equipment.

--Excellent hotel accommodation.

--Excellent transportation.

The only negative, according to the report, was that "horse quarantine arrangements could cause some inconvenience for a few countries."

One commission member, who did not want to be identified, said: "If you look at the 23 things that matter on the technical side, the Sydney bid is bloody near perfect. It's so far ahead of the others, it's quite breathtaking."

The commission was less enthusiastic about Beijing, in fact rating the Chinese capital behind Manchester, England, and Berlin, as well as Sydney. The report did say, however, that Beijing's bid was "realistic and solid."

But when Beijing appeared as if it were emerging this week as the favorite, it was for virtually every reason except the soundness of its bid.

It was said that the IOC would vote for Beijing because of the vast marketing potential its population of 1.2 billion would afford sponsors, or because it would teach politicians, such as those in the U.S. Congress who tried to tell the IOC how to conduct its business, not to interfere, or because it would put the Chinese government under the world's spotlight for the next seven years and force it to improve its human rights record.

The athletes were forgotten.

Until Thursday, when Sydney's victory was also theirs.

"This vote," said one of Great Britain's IOC members, Dame Mary Glen-Haig, was "about the Olympic Games and not about other things."


In what many saw as a victory for sports over politics, the IOC selected Sydney over Beijing as site of the 2000 Summer Games. A1

The Vote

Round-by-round voting by the 89 members of the International Olympic Committee on the host city for the 2000 Summer Games (a simple majority needed to win):

FIRST ROUND * Beijing 32 * Sydney 30 * Manchester 11 * Berlin 9 * Istanbul 7 Istanbul eliminated

SECOND ROUND * Beijing 37 * Sydney 30 * Manchester 13 * Berlin 9 Berlin eliminated

THIRD ROUND * Beijing 40 * Sydney 37 * Manchester 11 Manchester eliminated

FOURTH ROUND * Sydney 45 * Beijing 43 Beijing eliminated

Note: One voter did not cast ballots in third and fourth rounds.

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