Olympics Committee chooses Sydeny for 2000 games



MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP)—Stability prevailed over political risk Thursday when Sydney edged out Beijing for the right to hold the 2000 Summer Olympics.

In selecting Australia’s picturesque harbor city by a two-vote margin, the International Olympic Committee returned the world’s biggest sports spectacle Down Under for the first time since the 1956 Melbourne Games.

‘‘I believe it was a sporting choice, not a political choice,’‘ said Italy’s Primo Nebiolo, an IOC member and head of track’s world governing body. ‘‘In the end, the members preferred Sydney because it was a candidate which presented no problems and created no criticism.’‘

Beijing, considered the slight favorite, has been criticized for its human rights record. Concern also may have existed over the uncertain political future in China, ruled by 88-year-old Deng Xiaoping.

Beijing led in three of the four rounds of secret balloting by the 89 IOC voters. But as Istanbul, Turkey; Berlin, and Manchester, England, were eliminated, Sydney prevailed, defeating Beijing on the final ballot, 45-43. One voter did not cast a ballot the last two rounds.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced the decision live to a worldwide TV audience.

Moments later, fireworks exploded over Sydney Harbor. About 100,000 people gathered on the waterfront greeted the dawn with champagne and blaring horns.

Beijing offered the powerful symbolic impact of holding the Games of the new millennium in a nation of 1.2 billion people—one-fifth of the world’s population—as it opens up to the rest of the world.

But in choosing Sydney, the IOC went for the safer candidate, a glamorous, cosmopolitan city with superior sports facilities and technology.

‘‘This decision puts the Chinese leadership on notice that they will pay a price for the continued abuse of their own citizens,’‘ said Richard Dicker, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch in New York.

‘‘If there was a difference in the vote it was clearly between the risk-takers and the non risk-takers,’‘ said Dick Pound, an executive board member from Canada who lobbied for Beijing.

Some IOC members felt 2004 was a more realistic target for Beijing, and Chinese officials said they would consider bidding again for 2004.

Kevan Gosper, an IOC vice president from Australia, said, ‘‘I think Sydney didn’t just win it because of the merit of the bid. . .. It was a question of time. … The question wasn’t: do you go to China? The question was: do you go now? It was a matter of timing that favored us.’‘

Some officials had said putting the Games in Beijing could help speed reforms in China.

‘‘Some would say that opportunity was lost,’‘ said Anita DeFrantz, the only U.S. member of the IOC, adding she was not necessarily speaking of herself.

Bob Scott, head of the Manchester bid committee, said there was a definite ‘‘stop-Beijing’‘ movement among IOC members uncomfortable with what they perceived as heavy-handed support of China by some top IOC officials.

Another key for Sydney was this summer’s IOC report analyzing the aspects of each bid, such as sports facilities, infrastructure, transportion and environmental protection. Sydney came out way ahead.

The activist group Greenpeace endorsed Sydney’s plans as the most environmentally sound in Olympic history.

Chinese officials in the audience appeared stunned by the announcement. They applauded politely as Sydney delegates danced and shouted in glee.

‘‘Of course we are disappointed, but they conducted themselves in a sportsmanlike way, and we are happy for them,’‘ said Wei Jizhong, secretary general of Chinese Olympic Committee.

The Sydney Games are planned for the last two weeks of September 2000.

Sydney had been considered at a slight disadvantage in bid consideration because of the 16-hour time difference with the eastern United States, which could affect television rights fees.