When, in 1993, then-NSW Premier John Fahey made his now-famous leap
to celebrate Sydney winning the right to host the 2000 Olympic and
Paralympic Games, most Australians had little idea of what to expect
seven years later.
We knew something of the elite sporting competition and the
international media coverage. We knew of predictions of massive economic
benefits flowing to Sydney, and to a lesser, extent, the rest of the
We were told these would be the "Green Games", and this was
a factor in Sydney winning the bitter rivalry with Beijing and other
bidders at Monte Carlo. We were assured, by the bid team and Government,
that Sydney would do it better than anyone else since the re-emergence
of the modern Games in Athens in 1896.
But we knew very little about the general impacts, organising and
hosting the Games, would have on the social fabric and community life of
the host city, regional NSW and elsewhere.
There were those, in the early 1990s, who had thought the NSW
Government, and the bid would have benefited from a comprehensive social
impact assessment being done, before the IOC voted. There was some
lobbying, from inside and outside the NSW Government, but to no avail.
Why look at social impacts?
This view was based on the belief that a host Olympic city, in
accepting the Games, should be doing all it can to spread the benefits
across the entire population.
It should also be trying to minimise the costs to the community, and,
in doing so, ensuring that negative impacts do not fall on specific
sections of the community, and, in particular, families and individuals
who are already socially and economically disadvantaged.
In other words, using the Sydney marketing theme, truly sharing
the spirit (and sharing the pain).
Who are the advocates?
The Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS), in conjunction with
other community-based organisations such as Shelter
NSW, the NSW
Tenants Union, the Public
Interest Advocacy Centre, People
with Disabilities, the Ethnic
Communities Council, the Combined
Pensioners and Superannuants Association, Uniting Care and the NSW
Ecumenical Council, have been strong advocates, since Sydney won the
Games bid, for proper attention to be given to maximising
Olympic-related opportunities for the whole community and minimising and
managing negative social impacts.
All of our organisations have worked inside and external to the
Olympics preparation process to advance these objectives.
Since 1996, our organisations have been represented on the Olympics
Social Impacts Advisory Committee (SIAC), the formal government/non
government body established to advise the NSW Government on these
Since that time, several of our representatives have, at the same
time, alongside bodies such as Rentwatchers,
been key public critics of inadequate performance by Olympic organising
agencies, and the NSW Government in tackling the social impacts of the
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