By: Laura Walden

Q) Could you please give a little background on the upcoming Goodwill Games in Brisbane?

A) The 2001 Goodwill Games will be held from the 29th of August to the 9th of September in Brisbane and this marks the first time ever that it will be staged outside of the United States or the USSR since it was first hosted in Moscow in 1986. The last Games were held in New York in 1998.

We have a 14 sport program which includes: artistic gymnastics, athletics, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, cycling, figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, surf lifesaving, swimming, trampoline, triathlon, and weightlifting.

We’ll have 1300 of the world’s best athletes, we’ll have no country qualifications, no country quotas, no country original representation, it is all about us choosing and inviting the very best athletes in the world. As a result of that we just choose to have the best athletes irrespective of what color, country, religion or creed that they may come from, just as long as they are ranked in the world top one to ten.

So the simplest way to understand that and translate it into real terms is like for example, for the 100 meters there are 8 lanes to start, we have no preliminaries, no heats, no semi’s, we have just 8 starters and 8 finishers.

What we do is we reward the athletes for their performances effectively through a prize-pool. We have a total prize pool including world championship bonuses, personal best bonuses, etc, all for around AUS$10 million including World Record Bonuses. We pay people or they win the prize for performing to the best of their ability. That prize money doesn’t just go for first place it goes all the way down the list to the people who come in last or 8th for their event. So from an athlete’s perspective, we find them, invite them and when they accept, we fly them, house them, take them to the field of play competition, let them do what they do best. Then they sort out amongst themselves who gets paid we don’t have to even get involved.

Q) How does that get done?

A) If they cross the line first they get the money, they come second they get less money but even if they come in last they still get money out of the equation, so they get something for their troubles. It is a matter of them sorting that out who is best.

Q) How do you decide how much goes into each sport’s stakes?

A) We will be announcing that in February, but obviously some of the events like the blue ribbon 100 meters will be the richest prize money. The only thing that I should say is that in team sports it is a little bit different because you can’t just go straight into a final for a team sport. So we do have the top 8 or 10 or, in the case of beach volleyball, top 16 teams from around the world play off eachother in a round robin series. In Triathlon for example we have the top 25 players in the world. You can’t have just the top 10, so that is about the Goodwill Games in a nutshell, you have the best of the best coming together.

Q) Do you need to built any new infrastructures?

A) No, we are putting in a new athletics facility at the stadium. The track here will be torn up after the Paralympic Games, so we’ll have the newest state-of-the-art track in Brisbane. We are going to remodel it and put in a brand new track.

Q) What is the situation on the sale of your television rights?

A) The host broadcaster is Turner Broadcasting System and that is owned by AOL Time Warner. The have sold the rights to the national rights holder in Australia which is the 9 Network, they are in the market place at the moment to a number of other potential telecasters or broadcasting stations around the world for both live footage, packaged footage and tape delayed footage.

This is all handled by Turner Broadcasting and if they are interested in purchasing footage they can contact directly Mike Plant, who is the President of the Goodwill Games. These will be including the feature events like the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the Michael Johnson race, etc.

We have three aspects that are a little bit different from the Olympics, to our event, we have the domestics assets or domestic rights in Australia and you can be buy them out and own them exclusively by category. Then you can also buy the rights for the national telecast within Australian which is Channel 9 and you can also get these by category. And then in the U.S. you can buy the TBS assets, which is the Turner Broadcasting System assets, and own and control them by category exclusively. Which means you can truly own rights across three markets and through the syndication of the event exclusively by category if you are a sponsor.

Q) What is your viewing audience?

A) In Australia I think we’ll probably get somewhere in the order of 6-7 million viewers, that will be at the top and a fairly high rating, but worldwide it will be over a billion views. Yes the Turner Broadcasting System has a total reach itself without syndication of around 450 million households in 100 countries. Which comes to about a billion viewers.

The event has real reach, and one of the things that has been a challenge for me is that not a lot of people in Australia know about the Goodwill Games because it has clashed with the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Games yearly cycles have been ’86, ’90, ’94, ’98, and 2002 so we have taken the Goodwill Games out of the cycle. Now we have taken our event out of that cycle and put it this time in a three year interval to happen in 2001, a year before the Commonwealth Games. Then the next one will happen in 2005 a year after the Olympics, then the next year will be Goodwill Games, then you get the Commonwealth Games. That way they are all separate.

The Goodwill Games have always been the same year and in fact within weeks of the Commonwealth Games and our country’s always been absorbed in them, so we don’t send our athletes and then we don’t have any broadcasts. But we’ve changed all that around now and that makes it a very powerful product.

Q) How do you decide who hosts the next edition?

A) We don’t really have a bidding process, Mike Plant identifies where and what would potentially be the next best city for this event, or the best country, and then he approaches them with the opportunity. Then there is just a negotiation, which is how our bid happened, and there is no bidding war which is in no one’s interests.

Q) So then you survey a city and suss out if it can technically stage the event and then propose to them?

A) Yes, and if they say no, that’s fine we understand. If they say yes, then you get into a negotiation and show them what the benefits are and they will look on the other side of the fence and they will have to make some financial commitments to the event.

On the other side of things, this event doesn’t make money, people haven’t gotten this side of the story. Although this event was invented by Ted Turner, he’s the grandfather, the inceptor but it is now own by AOL Time Warner, but I can tell you that it is not an event that is driven by a corporate entity for profit. It requires the commitment of a city and a state that will make it financially work. We don’t pay a rights fee, if you like, to the owner of it, they basically say, you run the event and you make the costs equation and that’s the deal.

Q) And the profits, whatever is brought in goes to the Organizing Committee?

A) That’s right. On that side of the equation, our government has got a commitment of so much money, if I can raise more from the corporate sector and the ticket sales, then I don’t have to draw upon that money from the state government. That makes it great for the tax payer, great for everybody.

This event doesn’t leave behind huge financial issues, it is within it’s size.

Q) What about your media centre and how many journalists are you expecting?

A) We will have a very specific media centre, in fact we have a very unique facility called the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre which is one of the biggest halls in this country and maybe even one of the biggest in the world. In it we are going to put gymnastics and trampoline, boxing, weightlifting, basketball, the international broadcasting and media centres and they will all be in the one building.

I have never run a Goodwill Games before, but I think we’ll get about a thousand journalists who are coming only to cover the event who are very focussed.

Q) How are you going to deal with the issue of doping?

A) That is a big issue as these Sydney Games have shown. We will be using the latest tests available, we will be adopting the doping protocol of the International Federations, most of them have their doping protocol in place and we will be adhering to it.

We will be using the doping lab here in Sydney, it is very important for our perspective and for Australian athletes for us to maintain the highest ethical standards, not only in terms of actually conducting the testing but in the application of the testing. That is sacrosanct.

Q) How much is the budget of the Goodwill Games?

A) The budget is divided into two parts, the organizational committee’s budget, which is the related services, athletes’ accommodations, transport, management, volunteers, results, data and timing which is at under AUS$100 million.

But if you compare that to the Olympics which is $3 Billion, it is a serious budget but we get the output for what concerns the footage, because we get the world’s best athletes. And we don’t have to worry about going through the heats and the semi’s either.

From the ticket sales perspective, you get only the action packed finals, so therefore the tickets are very highly sought after and there are fewer of them. But at the same time we have some very big facilities and as a result of the nature of the events most of them won’t start until late in the afternoon. Like athletics, which won’t start until six o’clock in the evening and will be finished by nine and we’ll run it for four evenings. So you get a series of finals.

Q) How many tickets do you sell?

A) We have a total of less than 500,000 tickets available to be sold worldwide. We will be selling them on the web. We are in the process at the moment of going through a ticketing tender process for a ticketing agent. And this will be given to an Australian based company, this however will be different from the Olympics, there won’t be any pre-releasing or pre-handling of the tickets. It will be just the straight off buying of tickets and they will arrive in the mail in the next 2-3 days.

Q) Do you have a specific sponsor program for the Goodwill Games?

A) Yes we have partners, supporters and suppliers, and we’re in the process at the moment of negotiating our partner sponsors and I can confirm that we have Fosters Brewing as our first partner. And I am in the process of finalizing other negotiations.

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