SEARCH 2000 Games

Monday, September 11, 2000
As Sydney officials make final report, more transport problems arise

By ROB GLOSTER -- Associated Press

 SYDNEY, Australia -- As Sydney Olympic organizers made their last pre-games report to the International Olympic Committee, they also were dealing with more transportation problems.

 A signal failure caused delays at a major train station, another bus driver got lost taking journalists to the main press center, and talks continued with out-of-town bus drivers recruited for the Olympics who have complained about their living conditions.

 Jacques Rogge, the IOC's official in charge of the Sydney Games, said he remains optimistic the transportation system will function well during the Olympics.

 "We have some uncertainties in some sectors of the organization," Rogge said at the IOC general assembly session. "In transport, we've had teething pains in the first days, but now everything is coming into the fold."

 Tony Sheldon, secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said talks continue with the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority, but that drivers already have been promised at least one hot meal a day and the possibility of alternative accomodations.

 The 2,000 out-of-town drivers had complained last week that they are working 12-hour shifts with no breaks and sleeping up to eight per room in dormitories that have no security or regular cleaning.

 The union said one meal for drivers consisted of an apple and a drink.

 The drivers -- who were promised a package offering 11/2 times their normal salary, as well as room and board -- also complained they have not had adequate training on Sydney's streets.

 "We're looking at those conditions," said an ORTA spokesman, who asked that his name not be used. "Obviously, what we're trying to do is keep the bus drivers happy."

 At the Atlanta Games, 40 bus drivers rebelled temporarily and refused to drive school buses that had no radios or air conditioners.

 On Monday, in a scene reminiscent of the 1996 Atlanta Games -- where journalists virtually commandeered buses from lost drivers -- a photographer tried to direct a confused driver from the media village to the main press center.

 The driver came to a dead end in an industrial park, turned around and finally turned down a street he had refused to enter earlier at the photographer's suggestion.

 The train signal failure at Redfern, one of Sydney's busiest stations, caused delays Monday morning. One driver announced to his packed train: "You have as much idea as I have what's going on."

 It wasn't the first bad day for the Sydney Olympic transport system, which has had some well-publicized difficulties.

 One of the most attention-getting took place Saturday, when IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had to cancel a tour of the international broadcast center because a bus failed to show up at his hotel.

 The Sydney train system has been plagued by derailments and other difficulties in recent months, and there have been problems with a new baggage system at Sydney Airport.

 But there also have been notable successes.

 Transportation worked fairly well in Saturday night's opening ceremony dress rehearsal, the first big event at the Olympic Stadium for which only public transportation was available. Officials said there were only minor delays as 81,000 people got to the stadium by train and bus.

 Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, who complained last week about poor bus service in the Olympic village disrupting athletes' preparations, said the transportation system is improving -- with only about a dozen incidents Sunday.

 Coates said the note he received Monday morning from Graham Richardson, mayor of the athletes' village, "was a big improvement."

 "It's down to one page anyway," Coates said.

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