at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Sydney – Australian media lavishly praised the London Olympics Monday, saying it came close to Sydney, as sports chiefs Down Under began dissecting what went wrong after the country's below-par medal haul.
The Games closed with a ceremony celebrating Britain's pop prowess to cap an extravaganza International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge called “happy and glorious”.
The 2000 Sydney Games are widely considered one of the “best ever”, as they were described by the then Olympic chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, and Australian media admitted Britain's event came close.
“London, you didn't half do a decent job,” the Sydney Morning Herald said in an online comment piece.
“These Olympics had Sydney's vibrancy, Athens's panache, Beijing's efficiency, and added British know-how and drollery. With apologies to Sydney, they might just represent a new PB for the Olympics.”
The Australian broadsheet was also complimentary, saying in an editorial that London hosted a Games “to be envied”.
“In the lead-up to the London Olympics there were difficulties, disputes and predictions of disappointment,” it said. “But in keeping with the famous wartime motto, the British simply kept calm and carried on.
“Now they have staged a Games to be envied: a celebration of excellence and cameraderie that has brightened the eyes of a world burdened by economic uncertainty.”
Antipodean neighbour New Zealand also praised London with Wilf Haskell, the author of an unofficial history of Kiwis at the Games, saying: “This has been, from my point of view, the best Olympic Games I've ever watched.”
New Zealand had one of its most successful Olympics ever, claiming five gold medals to finish 16th in the table, which Wellington's Dominion Post said illustrated “a little country that has overachieved in the past fortnight”.
While New Zealanders celebrated, recriminations were underway in Australia which only finished 10th, down from sixth in Beijing, with just seven golds for its worst victory tally in 20 years.
It was well below expectations, lagging the likes of Hungary and Italy, and a massive 22 gold medals behind traditional arch-rival Britain.
Australian Olympic boss John Coates blamed administrators rather than athletes, and said money was not the problem.
“I am absolutely certain that the sports have to look at themselves, rather than look for more money,” he said in an Olympics debriefing in London.
“They are largely being very, very well funded by the (government-backed) Australian Sports Commission and with that comes responsibilities of delivering.”
Coates said he had written to presidents or chief executives of Australia's Olympic sports before the Games expressing his concerns.
“I was concerned, about 18 months out from these Games, whether the sports themselves – the presidents and the executives of the sports – were taking enough ownership of the objectives that they had set,” he said.
“Any corporation is only as good as its CEO or chairman and the direction that is coming from there.” – Sapa-AFP