Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Sydney, Australia, Summer 2000:
The Fun Olympics

Going for gold: Although following Atlanta would have made almost any host city look good, Sydney did stage a very popular Summer Games, and in the process was able to show the world that it was not just the Land Down Under, but a hip, happening place, where wine no longer came by the box, and bush fare had to compete with haute cuisine. While you'd think the city that produced the Sydney Opera House could have come up with more creative Olympic architecture, it is hard to fault a design inspired, as the Olympic Stadium (pictured) supposedly was, by the Australian slouch hat, or akubra, a type of headgear favored by, among others, Indiana Jones. Fortunately, Sydney's $6 billion in infrastructure costs also got the city, among other things, an upgraded airport, new rail link, and ferry system.

Tourism legacy: For a few years after the Games, it appeared that for Sydney the Olympics Effect might turn into the Olympics Bust, as the Olympic Park was slow to live up to its promise of becoming a sports, entertainment, and business center. However, the recent announcement that the Accor hotel group is planning to build a five-star property at the park is just one sign things have turned around.

Results: Gold. The Aussies wrestle crocodiles, invented Vegemite, and saw Mel Gibson through his teenage years. How could there have been any doubt that they could organize a sporting event?

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