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Monday, September 18, 2000

Summer Games just too big and bloated

 We're only two days in but the reality of the Olympic Games has once more been reinforced. They've become too big.

 Grandiose beyond all reason. Bloated, you might say. Almost unmanageable for a host city.

 One had to stifle snickers at a news conference Sunday held by the organizing committee from Istanbul hoping to stage the 2008 Games.

 Do these people have any idea what they're trying to get into? Do the others who made the short list, including Toronto?

 A cult of bigness seems to hold dominion over the world these days and the Olympic Games are no exception. One Olympics soon they'll burst, like a dinosaur too ponderous to sustain itself.

 This confluence of bigness and an accelerating interest in sports has inflated all the numbers. There are nearly 11,000 athletes competing in 28 sports spread around dozens of venues over thousands of square kilometres.

 The remoteness of Australia from more populous places did nothing to curb media interest. There are more than 20,000 members from press, radio, television and Internet here.

 So far, Sydney organizers are coping -- barely. The heavily attended events such as athletics are to come and whether Sydney can handle the No. 1 Olympics problem -- transporting vast numbers of people efficiently -- remains to be seen.

 Atlanta was a disaster in that regard. Sydneysiders insist they've got it covered. You'd never know it listening to grumbling media folk trying to cover a number of events in one 24-hour period.

 The movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles comes to mind.

 It's not as though there isn't a solution. There is, one that can benefit the Olympic movement generally.

 Move some summer sports to the Winter Games.

 That's not an original thought but it makes more sense now than it ever did. Corporately and most other ways, the Games of winter are Olympics in galoshes, the country cousin of the urbane, sun-bleached version.

 By moving a number of Summer Games events over to the winter side, a greater balance would be felt. And that includes bank balance.

 Those sports played indoors in the summer won't skip a beat moving and would assuredly gain more attention, particularly from big television. Boxing comes to mind, along with basketball, fencing, gymnastics and almost anything else played under a roof.

 Staging a modern Olympics is as logistically demanding as putting on a war. If there is a comparison to its magnitude, it's getting a major multinational corporation up and running from a standing start.

 With a lot of volunteer unpaid employees. They're lovable, kind and genuine throughout here but well-meaning and effective sometimes don't go hand-in-hand.

 Their joy goes a long way but sometimes not far enough to cover inaccurate directions and advice. As said, though, it's just two days in and already the Aussies have it over their Atlanta counterparts one Olympics ago.

 Each Games, be it these ones or the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London, emerges with the prize -- the legacy of sports facilities and an infrastructure required to carry off the show.

 Having paid the air fare for all the athletes and coaches here, plus all the horses, sculls, boats and everything else required, nothing would change that legacy.

 A tad fewer athletes, fewer media and all the support people to accommodate them would go a long way toward removing the bloat.