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Olympics 2000 Go to Sydney

By William Drozdiak
The Washington Post


Sydney was awarded the Summer Olympics for the year 2000 Thursday by the International Olympic Committee, culminating the most highly publicized battle to host the Games ever seen in the history of the modern Olympic movement.

The compromise favorite after trailing Beijing in the early rounds of voting, Sydney prevailed in the fourth and final round to win by two votes, 45 to 43, over Beijing. The Chinese city had mobilized enormous political and economic resources in an effort to bring the Games to one-fifth of the world's humanity and mark the dawn of a new era.

The Sydney victory followed three years of bruising competition among five cities vying to play host to more than 10,000 athletes and to gain commercial rights worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Melbourne, Australia, hosted the 1956 Olympics but it and Brisbane lost subsequent recent bids to host the Games.

Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who spearheaded the final hour-long presentation to the IOC members Thursday, stressed his country's superb sports facilities, pro-environment policies and stable democracy as he staked out Sydney's merits over Beijing.

The 89 IOC members eliminated first Istanbul, then Berlin and then Manchester, England; the contender with the fewest votes was knocked out of each round until a majority was reached. One member abstained on the final two ballots. "The long series of ballots put us over the top," Keating said. "We got seven of Berlin's nine votes and eight of Manchester's 11 votes. So it's a European victory too."

The Chinese bid enjoyed strong support from the IOC's powerful chairman, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and its members from developing nations who believed the 2000 Games would hasten the modernization of the Asian giant. Corporate sponsors were also enthusiastic about the commercial prospects in prying open a market of 1.2 billion people.

But Beijing ran into hostile opposition from many Western governments because of continuing abuses of human rights four years after the brutal massacre in Tiananmen Square. In the United States, Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., led a campaign urging the IOC to reject Beijing, and the House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing China's candidacy for the Olympics because of its human rights record. Some IOC members also were worried about the many record-breaking times posted recently by China's long-distance women runners at the National Games in Beijing earlier this month, which fueled speculation that they were taking drugs.

During Thursday's final presentations, the Australians promised to stage the first "Green Olympics," which would emphasize care for the global environment.