Journos, corporates and pollies are all playing the freebie and party game at the Olympics and we’ve got a pretty good fix on what is going on and where.

As the Fin Review reported recently, it really is amazing that the NSW government spent $2.5m on 30-berth super-yacht facility at Roselle for the Olympics and only filled 12 of them. Microsoft founder Paul Allen is the highest profile customer and has paid the requisite $100,000 to leave his gin palace known as Charade moored at Roselle. Allen is worth about $30bn so he’ll have no problem finding the cash.

Gates to stay at Crown and on Packer boat

Paul Allen’s mate Bill Gates will no doubt find time to pop aboard Charade if he gets out of the World Economic Forum alive. The world’s richest man was telling Australian visitors last year that he’ll be staying on Packer’s former ice-breaker known as Arctic P during the Olympics. At the moment he’s shacked up in Packer’s Crown casino for the WEF. Big Kerry met Gates at a Davos WEF conference a few years back. The Big Man sneakily rearranged the dinner table arrangements and spent the night telling Gates they should work together and make millions. NineMSN was conceived that night and Packer was nominally almost $3 billion in front when the ecorp stock price peaked at more than $8 earlier this year. Now that it is back to $2.50 and still chewing up cash at the rate of about $30 million a year it will be interesting to see if the boys are still getting on quite as well.

Little Kerry Trying to Rival Big Kerry’s Boat

Kerry Stokes’ boat Navigator is another big attraction. The Australian reported last week that it will be hosting Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman along with 498 others from its mooring at Darling Harbour. We’re a little confused as to whether this is Stokes’s boat os something that SOCOG has chartered for VIPs. The editor of The West Australian has opened the door to some more front page finance broker yarns by accepting a spot on the Stokes boat along with wife Val. That’s odd because Stokes and WA News had a big blue last year over the sale of some community newspapers in Perth for $30 million. Henry Kissinger and Rupert’s former right hand man Ken Cowley are also tipped by The Oz to be on the boat. We reckon Westpac CEO David Morgan and wife Ros Kelly is also a hot tip to turn up being Stokes’s personal banker. A year ago Morgan would have been worried about Little Kerry’s watercraft indulgences when the Seven share price had slumped to around $4. Now that it is back to close to $8 Stokes can really party hard. Crikey’s betting is that Seven, not Stokes, will pick up all of his party bills..

Rupert Takes Over The Sebel Townhouse

While the two Kerrys and people like Greg Norman, Paul Allen and Rene Rivkin will contest their “mine’s bigger than yours” boat-offs, it looks like Rupert Murdoch will be putting on some of the most impressive land-based parties.

The Australian is naturally gagged from talking about this but we hear News Corp is spending far more on corporate entertainment than it is on the actual Games coverage itself. They’ve booked the entire Sebel Townhouse in Kings Cross for the duration of the games. When Crikey’s spy drove past last week they were just putting the finishing touches to the dance floor in the night club on the ground floor. The guest list is rumored to include everyone from Henry Kissinger to Russian PM Vladimir Putin, Titanic director James Cameron, X-Files star David Duchoveny, disgraced junk bond dealer and Rupert confidante Michael Milkin and Star Wars creator George Lucas. It makes sense that Rupert would have the biggest party given his huge presence in Sydney with the likes of The Daily Telegraph, Foxtel, Fox Studios and, of course, that wonderful disaster known as Super League. The Americans are more Olympics than any other nation, so it also makes sense for Rupert to bring a few jetloads of Septic Tank VIPS over to Sydney given that more than 60 per cent of his revenues come from America.

IOC to be shunned and cop a beating for shunning Rupert

And don’t expect any IOC fatcats to be invited to Rupert’s parties as he’s still smarting about their decision not to give him the broadcast rights. Rupert follower Neil Chenoweth reported in the Weekend Fin Review that “the IOC’s decision to ignore Murdoch probably cost SOCOG another $200 million”. Thanks for that guys, the games are already set to cost NSW taxpayers almost $3 billion net. Maybe this explains the wonderfully hard-hitting front page lead in the Weekend Australian which screamed “GANGSTER BAN ENRAGES IOC” and was supported by the killer kicker: “Organised crime figures refused visas but Samaranch calls them family”. Great stuff and thank god Hong Kong-based Triad figure Carl Ching and Russian mafia heavyweight Gafur Rakhimov won’t be taking over the drug trade outside Hungry Jacks in Kings Cross after all.

Nike Secures The Watto

Slave labour abusers Nike might have boarded up their Melbourne store ahead of the protests at the World Economic Forum but they’ve booked one of Sydney’s favourite watering holes, The Watson’s Bay Hotel, for various parties during the games. Nike have invested hundreds of millions in advertising and athlete endorsement contracts based around the games so expect a few heavyweights to drop into the Watto. Let’s just hope they’re all travelling by water because Homebush to Watsons Bay would be faster to do in a pair of slave labour $400 Nikes than by road unless it was 3am.

Cokes Parties On At Randwick

Given that Atlanta hosted the Coca Cola Olympics in 1996, you would expect this great American brand to take a high profile in Sydney, especially given that its new worldwide CEO Douglas Daft is a former Hunter Valley school teacher now more attune with retrenching thousands of workers. Expect promoters of the dark tooth-rotting stuff to take over several prominent venues around town but their big opening night party is tipped to be at Randwick Race Course.

Telstra, Westpac and AMP Lead Largesse Race

Having in some cases sunk more than $100 million into the Olympics, Australia’s high profile sponsors are looking to extract big benefits over the next couple of weeks. The likes of Telstra, AMP and Westpac have been showering customers, executives, politicians and journalists with freebie tickets. Kevan Gosper is already on the record complaining about the puerile debate the pollies and journos have had about accepting freebies. Kev, not everyone is like the IOC trough chasers. Simultaneously, these big boys will be part of the advertising that is expected to generate Kerry Stokes’s Seven Network a cash positive Olympics. The big three have all snapped up the premium $15 million advertising packages with Seven which are vital if the $150 million ad revenue budget is to be achieved.

Journos Knock Ban Freebies

Believe it or not but several newspaper have clamped down on excessive corporate freebies. The Fin Review is encouraging a free-for-all so their hacks can get elbow to elbow with the corporate heavyweights from around the world but their stable mates at The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald are knocking back many freebies under strict new ethical guidelines. Even News Ltd, which normally lags on ethical issues, have introduced a policy on The Australian banning freebies unless it genuinely provides an opportunity to rub shoulders with a powerful mover and shaker. Good on them.

Pollies Do Snout Satisfying Deal

With Australia’s political duopoly, whenever the politicians union want to get something grubby through they just call in the two biggest employers and stitch up a deal. That is exactly what has happened with the Olympics. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks set an ethical high water mark by banning freebies for his Labor government in Victoria but it wasn’t long before Victorian powerbroker Senator Stephen Conroy had said yes to a $10,000 three day package with AMP which includes five star accommodation.

And the Federal minister responsible for regulating the banks, Joe “Hindenburg” Hockey, has accepted a freebie to the soccer final with Westpac and, according to the SMH, is tossing up which of his many other invitations to accept.

Five NSW government ministers have also accepted corporate freebies and the Liberal representative on the SOCOG board, Chris Hartcher, gets freebies to everything. The Libs could have landed many more punches on Labor if Hartcher had not been so greedy and instead stood down from SOCOG to distance the Libs from all the cock-ups coming out of Calamity Castle over recent months. We hope the next two weeks is worth it Chris, you convicted perk-addict.

Senator Conroy seems to be trying to impersonate that other great Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson as he’s the only Federal Labor frontbencher to break ranks and put his snout in the corporate freebie trough.

NSW Right Look After The Maaaaates

Laurie Brereton hasn’t been great mates with Olympic Village Mayor Graham Richardson for years for nothing. He’s got an all areas pass courtesy of his wife Trish Cavanagh who is a member of the International Court of Arbitration for Sport and is a NSW Industrial Commission judge. The more popular lurk is being appointed a cultural attache by Richo. That gives you an all areas pass. Mates such as John Brown’s son have picked up obscure little African countries that will deliver minimum hassle and maximum access. Thanks, maaaaate.

If you’ve got any other tales of corporate entertainment or freebies we’d love to hear from you.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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