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Comments on the problems facing the organising committee of the Sydney 2000 Olympics

MIKI DE STOOP: And joining me now - Gary Pemberton. Gary is the President of the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Chairman of Qantas and Brambles. Gary, good morning.

GARY PEMBERTON: Good morning, Miki.

MIKI DE STOOP: I don't know that I'd want your job - trying to find the chief executive for the Olympic Games.

GARY PEMBERTON: It's not going to be easy because it's a very complex job and it's a job that will change very significantly over the seven years lead-up to the Games, of course.

MIKI DE STOOP: Well, you're not going to tell us exactly who is likely to submit.

GARY PEMBERTON: No.

MIKI DE STOOP: And you're not going to tell us exactly who you would like to.

GARY PEMBERTON: No.

MIKI DE STOOP: But can you give us a rough idea of the sort of person that you believe would fit the bill?

GARY PEMBERTON: Well, one of the difficulties, of course, is that it needs to be somebody that's got very good management skill and, hopefully, a good track record of being able to manage a very complex business or a complex project. But at the same time, the Olympics is such a public project that he or she will need to have quite a strong public presence and to be able to relate to the public at large.

MIKI DE STOOP: So do you think it's got to be someone with a high profile, someone that most of us know?

GARY PEMBERTON: Not necessarily - not necessarily. I think that - I think it's more important that it's somebody that's comfortable relating to people and relating to the media and the public at large, and it may not be somebody with an established high profile.

MIKI DE STOOP: I've got a feeling that it would be one of the most thankless jobs in the world, purely because you're going to have so many people who want to put in their two bob's worth. And let's face it; it's seven years worth of two bob's worth.

GARY PEMBERTON: I've noticed, yes, some of that. But on the other hand, it's very satisfying. I'm sure after the Games have been held, it will be very satisfying to be able to look back on this sort of achievement.

MIKI DE STOOP: Well, let's look back for a moment. It was wonderful, the day that it was announced that we had beaten Beijing and, for that matter, Manchester, and we are to have the 2000 Olympics, but by gee, there has been a lot of back-biting and sniping and bad press, hasn't there, since then?

GARY PEMBERTON: Yes. I think that was a great shame and, fortunately, things seem to have settled now. I think in some respects, Miki, it gave people a little insight into how things could get off the rails if everybody didn't take stock and be a little more careful and professional about the way they were proceeding. So on balance, hopefully, it will turn out to have been a good thing and it's something that we've got well and truly behind us now.

MIKI DE STOOP: Is it behind you, though? I mean, there's still the question about whether or not Sally Anne is the token woman, et cetera?

GARY PEMBERTON: Speaking from the point of view of the board, we've had two meetings, now, and I have to say it's working exceptionally well. The atmosphere is strong and very positive, and from my personal point of view, I'm very, very pleased with the way all that is going. Now, I'm sure that we will continue to have particular interest groups and they're quite justified in taking positions on a whole range of issues from the public perspective, and no doubt that will continue.

MIKI DE STOOP: The simple fact, obviously, that it's being held in Sydney means that New South Wales is going to have, I suppose, the major contribution, Gary, but what will the other States be bringing into the Olympic Games and what will they be doing right from, well, today on, basically, because I guess you start working on it now?

GARY PEMBERTON: Well, of course, one of the strong points about the Sydney bid was that all the facilities and all the events were within 30 minutes travel time of the Olympic village and what follows from that, as you rightly say, is that it's very much Sydney-focused in that sense. There may be some of the preliminary rounds of various events held in other States, but, by and large, I think there will be a lot of spin-off to the other parts of Australia.

MIKI DE STOOP: What, in terms of tourism, obviously?

GARY PEMBERTON: Certainly in terms of tourism. In some areas, perhaps pre-training facilities and lead-up events through the whole period right through to the Games, and I think the general point I'd make is that we would like to find ways to reflect the national perspective of this because while it is focused on Sydney, at the end of the day, it's the Australian Games and one that's come at a very unique time, being the year 2000.

MIKI DE STOOP: For those of us who, hopefully, are going to be spectators and we're not involved in any of the, I suppose, work that's going towards building up to the Olympics, I think a lot of us are sitting back now sort of saying: 'Look, the most important thing is the way we look on opening day, and what's the opening ceremony going to be like?'.

GARY PEMBERTON: Yes.

MIKI DE STOOP: Because that is the most spectacular part, obviously, of the Olympic Games - the opening ceremony.

GARY PEMBERTON: Absolutely.

MIKI DE STOOP: And we've seen so many brilliant things in the past. How can we better them?

GARY PEMBERTON: Well, it's a great challenge. It's a great challenge and ....

MIKI DE STOOP: So how much time is going to be spent just on organising that, do you think, Gary?

GARY PEMBERTON: It will be a major focus because, as you've said, Miki, it's the opening event that sets the tone, that captures attention round the world. From a viewing point of view, it's certainly the most popular, and so it's very, very important that we get that right, and we'll be putting tremendous effort into that. Because as you've said, every Games that is held - that's the focus and it gets harder and harder to top the one before.

MIKI DE STOOP: And you've only got seven years.

GARY PEMBERTON: Yes.

MIKI DE STOOP: If you're anything like me. I mean, I can't do anything in advance, Gary. I've got to have the adrenalin going and think: God, I've only got five minutes to go. I'm glad it's you.

GARY PEMBERTON: Well, I think we've got some great planners around us, and looking back over the bid - as you said earlier - it was a very professional bid and the organising committee has now retained the core staff that were involved in the bid and we've got a group of about fifteen or sixteen that, as of our meeting yesterday, are being transferred to our payroll, so we'll have the continuity of the expertise that went into that bid, which I'm particularly pleased about.

MIKI DE STOOP: Well, I wish you lots of chookers (?) - in show biz terms - for the Year 2000 Olympics. Thanks for your time, and good luck finding your chief executive for the Sydney Olympic Games.

GARY PEMBERTON: Thanks, Miki - very nice to talk to you.

MIKI DE STOOP: Thanks, Gary Pemberton.