Slicker Games for more hosts

Fewer fans and media members, more compact stadiums and smaller athlete entourages will be the rule next year in Athens and other future Olympic Games, International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge said yesterday. The Olympic downsizing movement is one of the key ways in which sport’s biggest showcase is trying to leave less of a mark on its host cities, the IOC president said at the conclusion of a conference on sports and the environment. «In Sydney, we sold 9.5 million tickets and in Athens we have only 5.5 million tickets because there is only half the capacity,» Rogge said. «We could have had double the capacity in Athens, but then we would have to leave behind a lot of white elephants, large venues that can’t be used to full capacity once the Games are over.» As of September 30, more than 1.67 million tickets had been sold, or more than half the 3 million tickets for the general public. Another 2.3 million tickets have been reserved for Olympic sponsors and International Olympic Committee officials. The conference was hosted by organizers for the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, whose planners have concrete ideas for venue uses after their Games. An old soccer stadium being overhauled for the opening and closing ceremonies will be used by former top club Torino in future seasons, the athletes’ village will likely be transformed into a health center and the city wants to use the speedskating facility for industrial purposes. Rogge said the IOC is «not going to touch the number of athletes» that participate in the Games. Last year, the IOC decided to limit the number of Olympic sports to 28 and created a ceiling of 300 events. «We’ve also been limiting the number of hotel rooms needed, by bringing in cruise ships for Games that take place in port cities like Barcelona, Sydney and Athens,» he said. The IOC’s downsizing effort began after the 2000 Sydney Games, when officials saw that things were getting too big to control. The effort will also enable smaller cities to host the Games, letting the IOC bring them to South America and possibly Africa. Spreading the Olympics to new points was a key element of Rogge’s campaign for the IOC presidency. Also yesterday, with suspicions of doping running rampant in sports since the recent discovery of the designer steroid THG, Rogge sought to reassure Olympic onlookers that the IOC was giving its all in the fight against drug use. «After security, doping is the next major concern,» he said. «We are fighting very hard, but doping will never disappear. There are 850 million people practicing sports in this world, but there are not 850 million saints…» The IOC holds its year-end meeting today and tomorrow in Lausanne, Switzerland. (AP)