By GEORGE GROSS -- Countdown to Sydney
They don't have a castle in Sydney, but The Prince will have a chance to play host to royalty, presidents and business moguls at the 2000 Olympic Games.
Montreal's Dick Pound, affectionately referred to as "The Prince" by good friends, is the frontrunner in the Juan Antonio Samaranch Stakes for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee come 2001 and will play an integral role in Sydney.
At any rate, the Canadian prince doesn't tolerate fools gladly. Pound is a graduate of McGill University, a brilliant legal and business mind. As a lawyer, he's a partner in a prominent Montreal law firm and his business acumen has helped propel the IOC into a multi-billion dollar sports empire.
In Sydney, Pound will be the official host of all IOC-sponsored hospitality operations dealing with royalty, as well as with business and media moguls from around the world. These hospitality functions will be set up in Homebush Bay and in downtown Sydney.
"I expect the Sydney Games to be terrific," The Prince said other day. "I think that visually and organizationally they'll rival the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in excitement. Darling Harbour, which will host the track and field events and the swimming, diving and water polo competitions, is really impressive.
"I was particularly taken by the Aquatic Centre with its five pools and the seating area, which will be extended to 15,000 for the Games. They could probably sell 150,000 tickets. I was there in February when the IOC held its executive committee meeting and everything seems to be going according to plans. The final push, of course, will come 30-60 days before the opening ceremonies."
As former president of the Canadian Olympic Association and finalist in the 100-metre freestyle swim at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Pound is naturally interested in the fortunes of the Canadian team.
"We're generally recognized as one of the best Olympic countries," Pound said. "We're well prepared and well organized. We're a small country, but we are among the top six as far as team sizes are concerned."
As the man who negotiated the multi-billion dollar television deals on behalf of the IOC, Pound is not worried about the time difference between Australia and North America. He faced practically the same stuation in the 1996 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
"We know that during the Nagano Games people in North America stayed up most of the night to watch the hockey games (or figure skating)," he said. "The NBC network plans to operate with delays of up to 15 hours, but the CBC will counter by running live coverage. There will be a lot of media exposure with some 17,500 members of the media on hand."
The Prince talked about this gigantic operation as if he were discussing the purchase of apples and oranges on the local fruit market. However, his calm, relaxed but keen and astute mind is making him a logical favourite for the honour of heading the IOC in the new millennium.
Hopefully, the voting IOC members will realize it.
George Gross's column will appear each Sunday.