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Tuesday, 26 June 2001
Page: 28627


Mr BAIRD (10:35 PM) —On 13 July this year in Moscow the members of the International Olympic Committee will meet to decide which city should host the Olympic Games in the year 2008. There are five contenders for the 2008 Games: Beijing, Osaka, Istanbul, Toronto and Paris. The IOC's technical review committee have already made known their recommendation that Paris, Toronto and Beijing meet more of their criteria than Osaka or Istanbul, and so it can be assumed that the contest is between the three nominated cities. Having been minister for Sydney's Olympic bid and part of the bid team for Sydney, I have an interest in the process and would like to express my personal views on who should win this honour.

The first thing that needs to be said is that the games should be allocated to an Asian city. The games have not been held in Asia since 1988, when they were held in Seoul. Since that time the games have been held in Europe, North America and Oceania. The Athens Games will make it twice in Europe. If the games are allocated to Paris it will be the third time in Europe in 20 years. Osaka has developed a very good bid. Osaka is the second most important city in Japan—one of the world's leading economies. The city has an excellent site for the Olympics on an island in Osaka Harbour and Japan has a first-grade track record in hosting the Summer Games in 1964 and the Winter Games in Nagano in 1998. Nevertheless, the evaluation committee ranked the Beijing bid superior on technical grounds. This is Beijing's second bid; it is supported by an enthusiastic country, it is the capital of the world's most populous country and it is a rapidly growing economic nation.

The contest between Beijing and Sydney for the 2000 games was very close, with only two votes separating us in the final vote. There were, however, several factors which were finally decisive in Sydney's ultimate win. They were Sydney's tourist appeal; the facilities being built and planned; Australia's strong sporting tradition; the clean environment in which the games would be held, which would have natural appeal to the athletes; and the strong democratic tradition in this country. At the time of the last bid, Beijing had their emphasis on a political message, and the theme of their bid was opening up China to the world.

The emphasis of their bid this time around has now shifted to sports, infrastructure and the environment. Eight years ago there was no doubt there was much concern at the level of air pollution in Beijing. The technical evaluation committee reported negatively on their findings on the environment there. There was much discussion about the problems of environmental factors in that city. Over seven years on, the environmental conditions have now significantly improved in Beijing. I visited Beijing 12 months ago and was impressed by the improved conditions. Factories have been closed down, a major steelworks has been moved to another location and the use of cars in Beijing has also been restricted. The Mayor of Beijing, who is also the president of the bid, has taken a personal interest in the question of air quality there, and there is no doubt that there has been a significant improvement.

Secondly, there has been a major emphasis on sports. The performance of the Chinese team at the Sydney Olympics was outstanding, with their ranking being third in the overall medal tally. The crackdown on drug cheats before the Olympics also assisted the image of the Chinese team. The Chinese infrastructure plans for the games are also impressive, drawing on the experience of the Sydney Games and certainly improving their chances of success.

As a member of the federal parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee and chairman of the Amnesty International Parliamentary Group, I am of course concerned about China's record in relation to human rights. Again, I believe there has been a significant improvement in this area but there is still more to be done. However, it is the view of many involved in human rights that winning the games would assist in opening China up to further dialogue on human rights around the world. As an example of this, the question of human rights was raised at a private dinner hosted in Sydney by the former Sydney bid team, in honour of the Mayor of Beijing during the Sydney Olympics. Discussions regarding human rights are held between the Australian and Chinese governments on a regular basis. This process will undoubtedly be expanded if China interacts with every country in the globe in preparation for the Olympics.

In summary, the decision to be made by the IOC in three weeks time is significant because it will test whether the organisation is Eurocentric or truly global. The Olympics should clearly be awarded to either Osaka or Beijing, as it is indisputably Asia's turn. Beijing has been ranked by the evaluation committee as having a superior bid to Osaka's. It is therefore time that the 2008 Games be awarded to Beijing.