Sydney Olympic Organizers Face Budget Problem

Published June 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Sydney Olympic organizers face a government inquiry into their spending, the New South Wales (NSW) state parliament decided Thursday in Sydney. 

The inquiry follows NSW treasurer Michael Egan's decision two days ago to agree to another 140 million dollars (84 million US) to ensure the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympics Games (SOCOG) could stage the September Games without running out of money. 

SOCOG admitted two weeks ago that 2.7 million tickets worth 100 million dollars (60 million US) were still unsold. 

The NSW government has already agreed to forgo the 30 million dollar profit it had budgeted for, and the Games budget is now running one billion dollars (580 million US) above its 1996 estimate of 2.6 billion dollars (1.5 billion US). 

The full cost of the Olympics, comprising the operating budget and infrastructure spending - including airport modernization and the new rail link - was reported to be six billion dollars (3.5 billion US). 

NSW Olympics Minister and SOCOG president Michael Knight said SOCOG had nothing to hide. 

An investigating committee must report to parliament by August 29. 

"They will have access to anything they want, basically on the 140 million and anything to do with the SOCOG budget. There's nothing to hide there," said a spokesman for Knight, who leaves shortly for the United States to sort out a stalemate over the delivery of tickets from the printers. 

IOC vice-president and SOCOG board member Kevan Gosper admitted to Channel Nine TV the extra funding was a worry. 

"While it is disconcerting that such an event has happened so close to the Games, it guarantees now we'll go through the Games without any last minute panic," he said. 

Bruce Baird, the former Olympics Minister who won Sydney the Games in 1993, said Knight should never have taken charge of SOCOG. 

"It was always a dreadful move when Michael Knight moved himself to be chairman of SOCOG," said Baird. 

"There should have been a degree of separation because there is much greater accountability and he's both the minister and chairman of the board,” – (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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