By CRAIG DANIELS -- Toronto Sun
SYDNEY -- They partied hearty, Canadian style, for two consecutive weeks.
Now, if John Bitove has his way, they'll party in Toronto in 2008.
"This has been huge for what we've been trying to accomplish," TO-Bid chief John Bitove said last night, the final night of festivities at the downtown Sydney watering hole dubbed the Moose Lodge -- one of the hottest Olympic extra-curricular venues.
Bitove said he and other members of the Toronto bid team have met with 90% of influential International Olympic Committee members over the past two weeks and that virtually all were significantly impressed by the revelry consistently unfolding at the Moose Lodge on Darling Harbour, a bar normally known as Pontoon.
The bar was transformed into an outpost of Canadiana -- complete with fibreglass moose and flags -- by a consortium of private companies, the federal government and TO-Bid. The expressed purpose of the Canadian-style party centre was to inject some high-octane life into the normally staid IOC cocktail-party circuit.
"The IOC has been overwhelmed by the way people in Sydney have embraced the Games and by the atmosphere of this city," Bitove said. "In the wake of what happened in Atlanta, they're very eager to replicate what unfolded this time.
"They want the games to be fun, and what we showed here, night after night, is that Canadians can do that."
Moose Lodge was open 24 hours a day. Models, athletes, politicians, bands such as Blue Rodeo, sports personalities, business leaders -- including billionaire Bill Gates --and those who just wanted to see and be seen were all on hand at the bar.
Daniel Nestor made an appearance after winning his tennis doubles gold medal. Also on hand were multi-Olympic medallist Carl Lewis of the U.S. and Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey.