For weeks now the men organizing Sydney's Olympic Games have been slowly and agonizingly stripped bare. A journalist would tear off an organizer's shoe, a member of parliament would snatch a sock, then a radio commentator would unbuckle a belt, until finally a half-dozen aging executives were left naked and shivering, admitting they had misled Australia by secretly putting aside more than 800,000 tickets to sell to the wealthy at three times face value.
Then, in the nick of time, 12 female soccer players tore off all their clothes in one swoop, and Australia stopped convulsing over the naked old men. Last week the Matildas, as the Australian women's national soccer team is called, launched a calendar that goes beyond the usual coy depictions of athletes in the nude. This one features full frontal poses much racier than the one at right—with no strategically placed props or limbs to hide breasts and crotches.
"Whatever next?" one Sydney columnist asked. "A lap dance of honor at the Olympics? A free trip to a massage parlor with every season ticket?" Reporters jammed the Matildas' press conference, where 150 complimentary calendars went missing in minutes. The players, flanked by their supportive mums and blowups of their nude photos, said they were proud to strip to draw attention to a team that had attracted almost none when it headed off to the World Cup in June—to be promptly undressed by opponents in two defeats and a draw. "We are not big, butch, masculine, lesbian football players," said defender Amy Taylor, who will split with her 11 teammates a small royalty for each calendar sold.
"If people want to call it porn, that's their problem," said forward Katrina Boyd. "No one could make me feel low or sleazy about this."
No, that market had already been cornered by Sydney Olympics honchos for their naked attempt to—well, why not say it?—scalp tickets. Scalp them even after the top man, Olympics minister Michael Knight, announced that every Australian whose name was in the barrel for the ticket lottery would have an equal chance and the CEO of the Sydney organizing committee, Sandy Hollway, insisted no tickets had been set aside for the rich.
Then, during weeks of investigative reporting, parliamentary hearings and talkback radio outrage, the truth came dribbling out. As few as 2% of tickets for some high-profile events had been made available to the public, including just 16 premium tickets for two nights of diving finals and only 24 spots in the 3,300-seat grandstand for the men's triathlon. Granted, many of these seats were to go to media, IOC bigwigs, corporate sponsors (including SI) and foreign Olympic committees. But a walloping 840,000 hush-hush "premium package" ticket allotments with prices starting at $30,000 had been made available to private clubs, business leaders and other upper crusters.
When public pressure reached the snapping point, Knight and four other honchos—Hollway was on vacation—confronted the media but refused to utter mea culpas. "I am the ugly face of capitalism," marketing general manager Paul Reading proclaimed. "I'm not employed to give advice on equity; this is about raising money." FIVE BLIND MICE screamed a tabloid headline, and soon more than half a million new tickets materialized for the public. Hollway was stripped of some of his duties, Reading was demoted, and Knight, who has large political ambitions and longs for the Sydney Games to turn a profit, apologized.
Who were the fat cats who had already bought the hidden tickets? Demands for their names—and their connections to the emperors with no clothes—were gathering steam when the Matildas, as the locals are fond of saying, "got starkers." Never in the history of sports, or even college dorms, have six men been so glad to see 12 women get naked.