Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Samaranch begins final hurrah

Olympic leader, 80, to participate in executive board meeting today in Sydney

September 5, 2000

Advertisement

— A worn-out looking Juan Antonio Samaranch completed an almost 30-hour trip to Sydney on Monday for what will be his last Olympics as president of the IOC.

The 80-year-old Spaniard flew from Europe via Singapore. He will attend his first function on Wednesday at Olympic Park and then participate in IOC executive board meetings and the 111th IOC session.

Samaranch was ushered through Sydney International Airport by Olympics Minister Michael Knight, head of the Sydney organizing committee, IOC vice president Kevan Gosper and IOC director general Francois Carrard.

Samaranch spoke to reporters long enough to answer three questions, saying he was happy to be back in Sydney and was looking forward to the games. He has spent 20 years and 10 Olympics as head of the IOC.

Asked of any last-minute concerns, Samaranch said only inclement weather could spoil the games, which begin Sept. 15.

"There can be rain, there can be poor weather but Mr. Knight told me the forecast is good," he said. "We know very well that our Australian friends worked very hard over seven years, and I hope they'll get the prize they deserve."

He was helped into a small, white minibus and whisked to the downtown IOC hotel.

Police and military teams conducted a late security sweep of Regent Hotel, where the IOC has booked 80 rooms. Samaranch is staying in a suite that reportedly is worth $2,300 a night and includes a butler.

He rates the 1992 Barcelona Games as the best Olympics but has said Sydney has the potential to be even better.

Samaranch has promised to focus on immediate business, stressing he won't be drawn on speculating about his successor.

He will attend board meetings Thursday through Saturday, with the IOC session running Sept. 11-13.

Earlier Monday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard left Australia for the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York. He appealed for Australians to get behind the Olympics and present a welcoming country to the world.

He said he was not concerned about the prospect of a chain of Aboriginal campaigners confronting Olympic visitors during roadside protests Sept. 10-14 near Sydney Airport.

Indigenous activists want to highlight the plight of Australia's most disadvantaged minority. The activists were granted permission Monday to hold protests near the airport following weeks of negotiations with police.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.