Sydney spruces up for 2000 Summer Olympics


SYDNEY, Australia -- Sydney is "putting on its party clothes" for the 2000 Olympic Games, said Sandra Chipchase, general manager of marketing for the Sydney Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Everywhere you look there is something new and bigger and better," she said. "Even the domestic market is amazed at the changes taking place."

This city of 4 million people opened a light-rail system last year. The Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center and Sydney Airport are undergoing expansion. The first casino opened in 1997, the first IMAX cinema a year ago.

Recent months have seen the opening of cultural and arts attractions and a restaurant and retail complex at Darling Harbour. Fox Studios will open a movie attraction for tourists in June.

Visitors can now climb atop Sydney Harbour Bridge or cruise the harbor aboard the newest and largest sightseeing vessel built for Australian waters. Older landmarks, meanwhile, have reached milestones: The Sydney Opera House celebrated 25 years, and the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center celebrated its 10th anniversary.

And, of course, Sydney has the Homebush Bay complex, site of the 2000 Olympics. The complex is more than 70% complete. Homebush houses sports and meetings centers and a visitor center. (See story below.)

The first 10 months of 1998 showed a 24% increase in Sydney's North American arrivals, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Chipchase claims aggressive marketing is paying off, with North American growth almost making up for Asian decline.

She conceded, though, that good exchange rates and lower air fares have played a part. The CVB expects 200,000 international arrivals for the Olympics, to be held Sept. 15 to Oct. 1.

Cartan Tours, the Games' official U.S. ticket agent, began selling tickets and packages in mid-March and expects its allotment to sell quickly. Chipchase said another 3,500 hotel rooms will be added to Sydney's 25,000 rooms in time for the Games.

"Maybe the rest of the world does not know how seriously we are taking the Games," she said. "We are excited, and we know the event is a great opportunity for us."

In other developments, the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Center at Darling Harbour will complete a $34 million expansion in September. The project, which will expand capacity by 12%, includes additional auditorium and banquet halls, each for 1,000 people, and more exhibition space.

Sydney Airport's international terminal is undergoing a $240 million expansion, set for completion in April of next year. It includes 10 additional aircraft parking positions, a 40% increase. An additional $78 million is being spent on the terminal's renovation. Work on the domestic terminal includes a $24 million elevated roadway.

Also opening in time for the Games will be a six-mile underground railway linking the airport and the city. The new light-rail system connects such tourist areas as Chinatown and Paddy's Market, Darling Harbour and the convention center, the National Maritime Museum, the Star City Casino and the Sydney Fishmarkets.

Sydney already has a monorail, popular with tourists, that links Darling Harbour with the central business district, a 14-minute circuit with a train every four minutes.

Homebush Bay complex serves conventioneers, tourists, athletes

SYDNEY, Australia -- Homebush Bay is already operating as a sports, business and tourist center.

Its Sydney Showground and Exhibition Complex, home of the Sydney Storm baseball team, opened early last year. Homebush's visitor center and gardens are open daily.

Olympic Boulevard, one mile long, and other main avenues were also completed last year.

Stadium Australia, opened in February, was built at a cost of more than $400 million and holds more than 100,000 people.

Only three of Homebush's major projects have yet to be completed.

  • A 19-story hotel and conference center -- with two Accor Asia Pacific hotels, a Novotel and an Ibis, totaling 318 rooms -- will open in January.
  • In September, the Sydney Superdome will open. The arena will be equipped with conference and event facilities, including a 1,000-seat banquet hall.
  • The Olympic Tennis Center will open the same month.
  • Homebush formerly housed only the State Sports Center for track-and-field events. The center has been expanded and remodeled. Homebush is located 20 minutes west of the city and is twice the size of Sydney's central business district.

    New tourism attractions await visitors

    SYDNEY, Australia -- Visitors attending the 2000 Olympic Games will find a range of new attractions here.

  • Cockle Bay Wharf, a restaurant and retail development, opened on the city side of Darling Harbour in December.
  • The National Aboriginal Cultural Center opened in July.
  • At Circular Quay, the Customs House reopened in December as an arts and cultural center after a $14 million restoration.
  • In November, a company called BridgeClimb began offering visitors the chance to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge. The three-hour experience brings climbers to the bridge summit, 462 feet above sea level.
  • Near Paddington, Fox Studios will open its new complex in June. The facility will offer tours plus meeting space with high-tech equipment.
  • Captain Cook Cruises has a new flagship vessel, the $6 million, 700-passenger Sydney 2000. With four decks and capacity for groups of 200 or more, the vessel was designed for the meetings and incentives market. The company has nine other vessels that operate sightseeing cruises in Sydney Harbour.
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