Sydney plays cultural card
From VICTORIA FINLAY in Monte Carlo
SYDNEY has announced a cultural Olympic programme to celebrate ''humanity's search for new frontiers, its longing for freedom'', in an apparent slap at Beijing.
''The theme will be of men and women as adventurers . . . and fugitives of suffering,'' Donald McDonald, chairman of the cultural committee for the Sydney 2000 bid, said.
He said the programme of events, which would start two weeks before the proposed Games, and end one week after, would celebrate the Aboriginal heritage, as well as Australia's contemporary culture.
Four years of cultural events would culminate in a Harbour of Life festival with artists from Australia and the rest of the world.
In the Delphic Olympic tradition, medals would be given for excellence in the arts - in film, video, opera, architecture and design.
Opera star Dame Joan Sutherland had joined the Sydney bid committee to promote the cultural side of the bid.
''People do not realise how many musicians, writers and artists Australia has produced. It would be nice to see that the athletes had an opportunity to enjoy cultural events while they are not competing,'' Dame Joan said.
However, she said she would not herself be taking an active part in the celebrations.
''I used to sing,'' she said modestly, ''but I do not open my mouth any more.'' Asked about the alleged arrogance surrounding the Sydney bid, she said: ''It's very hard to find an arrogant Aussie.'' The president of the Sydney Olympic 2000 bid, New South Wales Premier John Fahey, claimed that Australia's bid was concentrating on its strengths, and not on any supposed weaknesses of the other bidding cities.
''We are sticking to our game plan,'' he said.
As the bidding cities settled down yesterday to the serious business of last minute self-promotion to the world's press and, more importantly, to the voting members of the International Olympic Committee, Sydney was concentrating on its benefits to theathletes themselves.
These include low-rise accommodation, walking distance to 60 per cent of the events, and full reimbursement of their travel costs.
''We believe that if the athletes of the world were asked for their choice it would be Sydney,'' the minister responsible for Sydney's bid, Bruce Baird, said.