SEARCH 2000 Games

Thursday, July 20, 2000
Sydney organizers extend Bondi Beach relay route to appease Coles

By JOHN PYE -- Associated Press

 SYDNEY, Australia -- Sydney Olympics organizers have extended the torch relay route along Bondi Beach to appease an Olympic executive who says he'd been promised the right to carry the flame across the famous stretch of sand.

 Atlanta Olympics kayaker James Walker was named Thursday to receive the torch when it comes ashore on a surfboat at Bondi Beach in the days leading up to the Sept. 15 opening ceremony, bumping International Olympic Committee member Phil Coles off the prestigious leg.

 Coles, forced to quit the Sydney organizing committee last year during the IOC corruption scandal after being censured for accepting excessive hospitality from bidding cities, later complained when he was allocated a relay leg along a suburban Bondi street.

 Olympics Minister Michael Knight said neither games organizers nor torch relay organizers had ever promised Coles the run along Bondi Beach, the site of the Olympic beach volleyball venue.

 But after a SOCOG board meeting Thursday, Knight announced the revised plans.

 Knight said the changes were made because the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club, of which Walker and Coles are both members, had planned festivities involving Coles and groups of local children running with the torch.

 Walker will still receive the flame at the shoreline and run the full length of his proposed relay leg before handing it on to Coles.

 Most of the Australian Olympic Committee and Sydney Organizing Committee staffs have recently surrendered their relay spots after the Kevan Gosper torch controversy.

 Gosper, an IOC vice president and Australia's highest-ranking Olympic official, was widely criticized when his daughter was promoted ahead of teen-ager Yianna Souleles to become the first Australian to receive the flame following the lighting ceremony at Olympia, Greece, in May.

 Gosper later pulled out of the torch relay.

 He had been scheduled to run with the flame at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he won an Olympic silver medal for Australia at the 1956 Olympics.

 Coles, however, has steadfastly refused to surrender his right, as an Olympian, to run with the flame.

 Knight said Coles had made very substantial contributions to the Australian Olympic movement and to securing the games for Sydney.

 "He's obviously made some errors but he's paid for that," Knight said. "Sydney's always been the city of redemption -- it started out as a penal colony and has always been the second-chance city."

 Knight released a list of Australian sports stars who would carry the flame in the final hours before the opening ceremony, but wouldn't reveal who would get the honor of lighting the cauldron at Stadium Australia.

 Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, swimming greats Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose, golfer Karrie Webb, and tennis player Pat Rafter were all among the torchbearers.

 Golfer Greg Norman will run the torch across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, while dual Olympic swimmer Samantha Riley will carry the flame to the top of the Sydney Opera House roof.

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