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Sydney 2000, in hindsight

2008 July 27
by Skip Sauer

The Olympics was touted as the flame that would cast fresh light on the city and lure planeload after planeload of curious foreigners Down Under. Sydney’s recognition soared and the tourists flocked, but the effect was a one-off.

In the three years after the Games foreign tourism to New South Wales rose less than for Australia as a whole, the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University in Melbourne said. There was no debt legacy, but neither was there a multibillion-dollar windfall forecast by its political cheerleaders. The state’s auditor-general says that the financial result was a net cost to the public finances of at least A$1.5billion (about £720million).

Cut another way, the Monash researchers say that the redirection of public money into relatively unproductive infrastructure such as equestrian centres and man-made rapids has since cut A$2.1billion from public consumption.

…A lack of political will and funding meant that, apart from the stadiums, the only significant civil infrastructure built for the event was a single dead-end railway line to the site of the Games in Homebush Bay, in the city’s west. That 1,580-acre (640-hectare) site at the end of the line also represents a lost opportunity, Holliday said.

Now being developed for residential and commercial use, Sydney Olympic Park was long criticised as a white elephant; a long-term master plan did not appear until 2005. “The master plan is under way, but we’re now 2008 and the Olympics was 2000 and we started planning for the Olympics six years before that,” Holliday said. “So we’re talking a 15-year time period and the construction of that town centre is under way now. I think it will be successful, but there was a lost opportunity longer term.”

From The Times.

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