13.05.2008 – Graham Croker

China is spending $US39 billion on the Beijing Olympic Games, according to Australian Olympic Committee President and Chef de Mission, John Coates, who recently returned from the host city.

Putting that in perspective, he said, about $US7 billion was spent on the 2000 Sydney Games and $US15 billion on the 2004 Athens Games.


“Much of the Chinese expenditure is on infrastructure, including six ring roads around the city and the world’s biggest international airport,” Mr Coates told an audience in the Great Hall, where Sydney University Olympians and Paralympians gathered in force last week for an Olympic Dinner, organised by the Blue & Gold Club to raise funds for sporting clubs at the University.

“They’re also spending $US30 billion on environmental issues to handle the heat, humidity and air quality while athletes are in Beijing. And that includes taking half of the three million cars off the roads. Aside from work on Olympic venues, all other construction in the city ceased last Christmas and factories are being progressively closed down as the Olympics draw near.”


Mr Coates said the Chinese are even attempting to control the weather for the official opening on 8-08-08 by seeding clouds beforehand to stop it raining during the Games.

The Chef de Mission said Australia will be sending a team of 440 athletes, down on the 482 athletes who attended the Athens Games, but still the largest team behind the US, China, Germany and Russia.

Sydney University has a known list of 103 Olympians and Paralympians, taking in the criteria that they are graduates of the University who have competed for Australia at the Summer or Winter Olympic/Paralympic Games; and/or are Sydney University students or club members who gained their Australian Olympic/Paralympic selection while representing Sydney University in their respective sports.


Among the Olympians and Paralympians in attendance at the dinner last week were Peter Hadfield, Mehmet Yagci, John Treloar, Tom Herschmiller, Stefan Szczurowski, Alicia Poto, Dan Burke, Michelle Engelsman, Toby Kane, Cheryl Peasley, Liane Tooth, Clair Mitchell-Taverner, Trent Franklin, Peter Montgomery, Jason Smith, Dick Sargeant, Nathan Thomas, Chris Fydler, Sarah Stewart, Natalie Porter, Debbie Watson, Lachlan Renshaw (selected for Beijing), Robin Bell, Lachlan Milne and David Hynes.

The University has also provided many Olympic officials over the years. Among those present last week were Donna O’Connor, John Boultbee, Peter Kerr and John Coates.

Mr Coates was Rowing Team Manager at the 1976 Olympics, Administration Director in 1980, Assistant General Manager in 1984, and General Manager and Chef de Mission at the 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

He will again head the Australian team as Chef d Mission to the Beijing Olympic in August.

DSC_0535_webAmong the highlights of the evening were interviews by Adam Spencer with two panels of Olympians, who provided some fascinating Olympic insights and recollections, including Peter Montgomery’s gripping account of the terrorist attack at the 1976 Munich Games.

The first interview panel included four-time Olympian Mr Montgomery, Hockeyroo Liane Tooth, swimmer Chrys Fydler and basketballer Natalie Porter, while the second panel included 800m runner Lachlan Renshaw, canoeist Robin Bell, wheelchair basketball Sarah Stewart and Australian water polo vice-captain Trent Franklin, each of whom will be competing in Beijing.

Photos courtesy of Dave Stanton.
View more Olympian Dinner Function photos here.