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|| News Item: Posted 1999-09-27

Dateline Sydney: One year to go
By Tim Clayton, The Sydney Morning Herald

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
There's only one thing every sports photographer in Sydney has been talking about since 1996 as we huddle in dingy corners before major sporting events..."I hope we don't screw up like Atlanta." The royal "WE" being a reference to the City most of us work full time in covering sports for papers, magazines and agencies.

It's funny how you suddenly become responsible for everything that's going on, after all, it's OUR games and we want the rest of the world to come here and say "The Sydney games were the best ever!" Although in reality, if there is a major stuff up, it won't be our fault anyway.... but if it goes great...we'll naturally take some of the credit... hey, we're

Our collective noun is "A whinge of photographers" like a "school of Whales" or a " Gaggle of Geese", get two or more of us together and we'll be having a right whinge about something within five minutes of striking up a conversation! The positions are poor, the lighting is crap, how did HE get a pass! TV think they own everything (which they just about do!), this new digital camera is too slow, it has a delay when you press the shutter, the quality's crap...etc., etc., etc. You get my drift....

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
Ever since Samaranch uttered those words "And the winner is Sydenee" all those years ago, we've being having a right old whinge about anything and everything, just in the hope that somebody listens and 'Sydeneee' gets it right!

I went to Atlanta and loved it! My two major gripes, like everyone's, was the transport which was a joke and I thought the swimming pool venue was appalling (Australia's major success is usually in the pool so we have to spend a lot of time there). It was worse than a country meet in Iowa, if I could have parked my car at the end of the pool and left the lights on to give us a bit more light, I would have done, but somebody had closed the curtains! Having had my whinge (see above), I have to say I found most of the venues (once you actually got there) had great positions, good lighting, were well organized and professionally run. And apart from America's love affair for YMCA (have you got no taste in music at all?) and the crass over commercialization of the games, I had a great time!

Photo by
Which brings me to 2000. How are we looking one year from the games? ...and before anybody e-mails me with questions about spiders, snakes, sharks, crocks and kangaroos, I would like to put people's minds at rest: I have lived in Australia for nine years now and have yet to see a poisonous spider or snake. Yes we do have sharks but I can't remember when the last time somebody was attacked by one off a Sydney beach. Crocks are much
further north and I can guarantee, you won't see a kangaroo hopping down Olympic Boulevard. So when your pic ed rings you and asks you to get a pic of your star athlete with a kangaroo in front of the Opera House, you can tell him to f..k off!

Which brings me to 2000: How are we looking one year from the games? Well, the great news is, Gary Kemper, who was in charge of us in Atlanta, is also in charge in Sydney. Gary has been working around the clock to get things right and we in Sydney have nothing but admiration for the amount of effort he is putting in.

At present we are in the middle of a whole range of Olympic test events and Gary is always on hand to discuss how to improve things for us all come 2000. Gary assures me things are way ahead in planning and preparation than they were in Atlanta with one year to go. So far the events have been well organized with excellent positions, and good lighting. The swimming pool for instance has roughly, a reading of 1/500th at F4 at 400asa which is light years ahead of Atlanta (pardon the pun)!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
The Olympic venues are basically split into four areas of the city with Homebush being the main Olympic site and location of the Main Press Centre (MPC). Homebush is about half an hours drive from the City inland, so if you are covering athletics, swimming, tennis, handball, field hockey, gymnastics, baseball, basketball, badminton or archery you are in walking distance from the MPC.

The site is fantastic in my view and I'm sure there will be hundreds of journalists who never get away from the venues at Homebush. It will be that convenient! Funnily enough the MPC will be based in the pig area of the Easter Showground and organizers have said they'll just wash the place out when the journo's have finished...just like they do after the pigs have finished at the Easter Show! Rather appropriate!

The media village is at present under construction at Lidcombe Hospital. It is about 5K from Homebush. I haven't seen the village at all so it is hard to pass comment. The only downside I can see is that many journalists won't really get to see the beauty of the City if they are just traveling back and forth from MPC to the media village. Both are inland and are really a part of the urban sprawl that most cities have! You could be anywhere!

Journalists based in the City hotels will be close to such events as triathlon, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, judo, volleyball, fencing, soccer and sailing. If you're just covering those events you will be almost in heaven!

The hardest events to get to will be, equestrian, kayak, rowing and canoeing which are near Penrith. Softball and some baseball are at Blacktown. Both are west of the City.(If you are covering these events for most of the games you really would be better not basing yourself in the City as these will take you at least one hour to get. They are about 30-40
minutes from the Olympic site at Homebush. The Velodrome is at Bankstown which is also about 30 minutes from MPC.)

All these times are assuming the transports system works (rail and bus) and really, if I have one major worry it is the transport system. The main road system from the city to Homebush is ALWAYS busy, even at midnight on a Sunday night! Having said that, the Olympic Stadium had its first sell out event three weeks ago when Australia played New Zealand in a Rugby Union test match. 110,000 people attended the game and the transports system afterwards was hailed a complete success! I was amazed how quickly we got away from the ground...a good sign for the Olympics!

Well that's it for now, I hope this information will help in some way making the Olympics all the more enjoyable for everyone when the global media village comes together once more. And I look forward to having a real good whinge with some of you soon!!! Taxi...where's a cab when you need one???!!!

(Tim Clayton is staff photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald. Tim immigrated to Australia in 1990 and has been a full time sports photographer at the SMH since 1991. He has won three World Press Awards for sports photography.)

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