Sydney 2000 confident of upsetting Beijing bid

AUSTRALIAN Olympics chiefs are unperturbed by the support Beijing will receive from Hongkong's influential sports supremo A. de O. Sales in the battle to host the 2000 Games and are confident Sydney will win the vote in Monte Carlo in September.

Sales, a highly-respected figure in world sport who has led the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hongkong for 40 years and is chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said on Tuesday he would be lobbying for Beijing's bid.

This is despite the fact that fellow Commonwealth members Australia and England are also competing for votes.

England's bid to stage the Games in Manchester was officially launched by British Prime Minister John Major last night. Also in the ring are Berlin, Brasilia, Istanbul and Milan.

But Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid are optimistic they will win the support of many Commonwealth nations, despite Sales' decision.

Sydney chief executive Rod McGeoch said yesterday that Commonwealth nations were not known to vote as a block, adding that all countries in the Oceania region, including fellow Commonwealth members New Zealand, have pledged their support to Australia.

''Hongkong, I believe, have found themselves in a difficult position as a member of the Commonwealth and also a member of the Olympic Council of Asia. They have made their minds up as to which one carries greater weight,'' he said.

McGeoch added he was not surprised Hongkong has sided with China since members of a regional council are expected to support fellow members.

Hongkong sports officials hope a Beijing victory will lead to a spin-off for the territory, with the Hongkong Special Administrative Region which will be in place by then, being nominated to host one or two events. Nationalist-ruled Taiwan are also hoping to share the hosting rights with Beijing.

But McGeoch said: ''It is not helping the Beijing bid to have statements made that venues in their plan are going to extend from Taiwan to Hongkong to Beijing.

''This means Beijing will have three Olympic villages in three places which will be competing under different flags.'' Sydney 2000 are preparing for the five-day visit of 13 International Olympic Committee board members who will be examining proposed venues and facilities from March 1.

The party will pass through Hongkong on their way to Beijing and Sales promised he would try to persuade the group to back the Chinese bid.

China, meanwhile, was delighted to hear of Hongkong's long-awaited declaration on the preferred host of the turn-of-the-century Games.

Xu Jia, a spokesman for the Beijing 2000 Olympics Bid Committee, said: ''I believe that Hongkong and Taiwan would welcome and support Beijing's bid since it is a matter not just for the mainland but for all the Chinese people.

''It is a natural thing for them to support Beijing and I am very happy about it. A Beijing Olympics would also benefit Hongkong sports.'' The northern English city of Manchester, rated only as third favourite, has been heartened by support from Prime Minister Major, who emphasised the compact nature of the Olympic plans when he officially launched the bid last night.

All venues, he pointed out, are within easy reach of the city centre.

The broad outline of Manchester's bid has been known for some time with government moral and financial support crucial.

The plan involves inner city redevelopment, a new velodrome and a national stadium should the bid be successful.

Mindful of Sydney's emphasis on the weather and the many beautiful tourist images it is using in its push for the IOC vote, Manchester has gone to great lengths to paint the Manchester weather as just as good.

They back this with analysis that Manchester's weather in July when the Games would be held there is as ''temperate'' as Sydney's is in October, when it would stage the Games.

And in an obvious shot at Sydney's bid the chairman of Manchester's bid committee, Bob Scott, said his group knew Manchester was not a glamorous city.

''If the Games is simply going to go to tourists traps I think it is ridiculous'', he says.