Crikey has unveiled a SOCOG insider who has happily dished some interesting dirt on the body organising the Olympics games.

This is what SOCOG was really believed to be, by the people that worked for it, and to look at this attitude reveals a lot about the causes of a lot of the trauma, problems and injustices that have stemmed from the organisation. The Sydney Olympics will be success in terms of a spectacular, well run event, but whether it reaches its full potential in terms of the benefits that it might have bought the citizens and economy of Sydney, NSW and Australia is unlikely, due precisely to this attitude.

Lets look at that attitude: “We’re just an event organising company”.

Firstly the Olympics is not just an event, it is the largest occurrence ever to take place on Australian soil (six year world wars did not take place here) the Paralympics alone will be larger than the last Commonwealth Games. To consider it just an event demonstrates the short sightedness that has dogged SOCOG throughout its activities.

And as for being just a company well that’s not strictly correct. Set up by the NSW Government I would have thought in the strictest terms that it was a statutory authority, with at least some inherent need to address the issues of the wider community of the State while operating transparently and ethically. I am unaware of any other companies that have acts passed enabling them to operate outside the requirements of the competition and monopoly legislation. Nor had other acts passed which actually create their major product of business. This is exactly what the Sydney 2000 Games Protection Act does.

It is through this act that an employee of SOCOG is able to sell the right to use the term Olympic employment (or Olympic Jobs, or Sydney 2000 Employment, 2000 Games Jobs, or any of a myriad of combinations) to international staffing company Adecco, through a private undisclosed agreement. Adecco incidentally being a company that this employee is reported to have worked for prior to SOCOG.

This agreement took place after the majority of contracts to provide Games site services had been signed through a tender process. The conditions of this tender included the need for the potential contractors to detail a recruitment and training plan. Needless to say the contractors didn’t bargain on the fact that they would not be able to recruit using terms such as Olympic employment et al.

A large number of the games workers will now be recruited through the Adecco run Olympic Labour Network, a complicated three tiered (four if you count the final employer) system of employment contractors and personnel agencies. Hardly an efficient method, which will only becoming more confusing for the employees who are very likely to throw up their hands and move to a more simplified system (ie away from the Olympic sites).

Ray White Real Estate was signed on in similar circumstances as the official Olympic housing agent. It is now being recognised that the extent of the house letting market was over estimated. But it could also be likely that charges required by the official agent might be too hefty, a result of them trying to at least recoup on their payment to SOCOG. An abundance of private lettings appeared to be occurring on various websites and newspapers this year. Apparently you can still advertise a house to let in Sydney in September. Besides, most people have bunked down with family or friends so Ray White only socred about 1000 house lets compared to initial estimates of 10,000.

The really funny part is the manner in which SOCOG employees run around attempting to protect the investment that such companies have made in them. One such instance might be seen in the manner in which the company CSC was contracted to provide spectator service for SOCOG. This company is well able to recruit for itself, however a requirement of it filling the role of spectator service is that it recruit its staff from Adecco.

The other amusing thing to watch is the unco-ordinated way in which SOCOG has gone about developing this business. The Olympic Club being a classic example; some genius presented the idea to his manager, everyone said brilliant lets do it, it was implemented and forgotten. Never mind the ongoing commitment to those who invested money in this farce.

Lets not even think about the tickets to Tatts members fiasco. Unco-ordinated, short-sighted and non-transparent. These may not being crimes in themselves, but in the least they must be regarded as ethically ambiguous. One could well argue from the fiscal side that we have to maximise the income from the games. But income to what? The income goes to SOCOG to organise the games, and the organisation grew. While the employees, recruited from a disparate range of companies still continue to regard themselves as working for a private organisation whose major output is strictly determined by whatever area they have specialised knowledge of.

What is really scarey is when this grab for cash impacts not only on the community but on the competition itself. Sailing was reported to be under the hammer in Sydney. It has been along time since a summer Olmypics was held in a suitable environment for this sport. The IOC wants something special for it in Sydney. A showcase for the harbour, providing spectacular free viewing from hundreds of fantastic vantage points. For the last two Septembers Sydney Harbour has been closed for trial Olympic regattas. Trials for the competitors and the organisers (from local clubs not our mates at SOCOG). During these periods the vast majority of the harbour is a no go zone for ALL craft, to the extent that a State Transit Authority passenger ferry actually went aground while staying outside the competition area, as it was required to do.

Earlier this year some bright spark at SOCOG decided that they could make money by chartering vessels and for spectators and allowing them within the competition area. $500 a throw was the mooted price, but don’t try logging onto the website to purchase tickets yet, they are still unavailable at this time. I guess we’ve got to give the maaates first go at it. You could dine out on it for years to come.”I was on the boat that ran over the Bronze medal winner. He could have been the gold medal winner, but not after we ran over him”.

The Sydney Olympics will be a great event and the atmosphere currently in the City is fantastic, the shame is that it could have been so much more.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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