A number of IOC members have openly declared that a privately financed bid like the one presented by Payne and ACOG will never be accepted again. "In the future we'll insist on a government grant or loan guarantee—something that's on paper," says Pound. "Atlanta left $75 million to $100 million on the table because it had to negotiate with NBC at the very bottom of the market [in 1993 ACOG received some $310 million of the $456 million in rights Ices paid by the network]. But Atlanta had no choice because it had to start building the stadium."
Payne bristles at the suggestion that he could have gotten more money from NBC. "To talk about what-ifs is pointless," he says. "We got what the market would bear then. It would have been easier if the government were underwriting the bill, but U.S. governments are not going to underwrite the Olympic Games to any large measure."
No? The IOC demanded and got guarantees from Salt Lake City and the state of Utah to cover any debt accrued by the 2002 Winter Games. And there is little doubt that much of the commercial tackiness that tarnished the Atlanta Olympics was the result of ACOG's financial desperation.
In these times when cities are lining up to bid for the Games (11 are in the hunt for 2004), the IOC can insist on just about anything it wants. And one thing the IOC dearly wants is to curtail street vending. "That Atlanta was willing to have its image as an Olympic city spoiled for a couple of hundred dollars in fees from each street vendor is hard to understand," says Thomas Bach, an IOC executive board member from Germany. "The Haw here was that the city had no interest in the financial success of the Games. That's going to be different in Sydney." Indeed, the government of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, will underwrite the cost of venue construction—estimated at $1.2 billion ($840 million U.S.)—in exchange for which taxpayers have been guaranteed 90% of the profits.
A vibrant, outdoorsy community, Sydney is already touting 2000 as the Athletes' Games because the city's air quality and average daytime temperatures (61° to 68° in late September) should be optimal for athletic performance. The trick will be to keep the number of athletes at the Athletes' Games below the IOC's self-imposed ceiling of 10,000, which, along with 5,000 officials, is all that Sydney has agreed to house. To go forward, particularly now that gender equality is an IOC priority (and thus more women's sports, such as weightlifting and water polo, are banging on the gates), the IOC will have to start making cuts. 'At some point we're going to have to take some sports and ask whether we can afford to keep them on the program," says Pound.
This much the Sydney organizers have promised: The parade of athletes in the opening ceremonies will be completed in significantly less time than the two hours it took in Atlanta, even if it means marching the athletes in from two portals at once. "We begged ACOG to use energetic music," says Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member from the U.S. "You don't have to change the opening ceremonies. You just have to change their dynamics."
Moving them Down Under should prove a pretty good start.