The real thing
Seventy-two of Australia's "bidding elite" are descending upon Monte Carlo to hear the International Olympic Committee's decision on which city will host the Olympic Games in the year 2000.
Asked to explain the purpose of the $212,000 trip, upon which most Sydney bid officials' spouses are also embarking, the chief executive of Sydney Olympic Bid Ltd, Rod McGeoch, confused journalists with an unfamiliar metaphor.
"It's all part of the strategic push to get us over the line", he said mysteriously.
It emerged later that McGeoch had intended to refer, metaphorically, to the "line" which marks the end point of various of the sporting events often staged during the Olympics, for example running, swimming, rowing etc.
Journalists following the bid were on more familiar ground with former NSW premier Nick Greiner, who avoided the baffling references to sport and got back to the real issue — money.
The advantage of having the games in Sydney, he said, was not that it would add $7.4 billion to GDP over the next 14 years, "although that's important enough", but rather the psychological impact, the impact on the nation's confidence. "And I can't think of a time in decades when we have more needed a boost in consumer confidence and business confidence than right now."
Australian media outlets, especially the Sydney Morning Herald, have participated in the strategic push for the line in recent days with stories ranging from hearsay on the suspected doping of Chinese athletes to reprints of old articles on female infanticide in China. For every dissenter freed from a Chinese jail (with such convenient timing) they have produced a Chinese exile who opposes the Beijing bid. The latest proof of China's unworthiness is the "suspicion" held by "Washington analysts" that China is "preparing" to detonate an underground nuclear test, and the "veiled threat" by a Beijing bid official that China could boycott the Atlanta games if they decided to do so.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney, the real Olympic spirit buoys up the streams of motorists passing the billboard above William Street in Kings Cross, which used to be a glittering Coke sign. Now it is a monument to the Sydney 2000 Olympics Bid, thanks, no doubt to the work of George Mellick, manager of Sydney Olympic Bid Ltd, corporate support division, on secondment from, and with his wages paid by, Coca-Cola. If it worked in Atlanta ...