For weeks now the men organizing Sydney's Olympic Games have
been slowly and agonizingly stripped bare. A journalist would
tear off an organizer's shoe, a member of parliament would
snatch a sock, then a radio commentator would unbuckle a belt,
until finally a half-dozen aging executives were left naked and
shivering, admitting they had misled Australia by secretly
putting aside more than 800,000 tickets to sell to the wealthy
at three times face value.
Then, in the nick of time, 12 female soccer players tore off all
their clothes in one swoop, and Australia stopped convulsing
over the naked old men. Last week the Matildas, as the
Australian women's national soccer team is called, launched a
calendar that goes beyond the usual coy depictions of athletes
in the nude. This one features full frontal poses much racier
than the one at right--with no strategically placed props or
limbs to hide breasts and crotches.
"Whatever next?" one Sydney columnist asked. "A lap dance of
honor at the Olympics? A free trip to a massage parlor with
every season ticket?" Reporters jammed the Matildas' press
conference, where 150 complimentary calendars went missing in
minutes. The players, flanked by their supportive mums and
blowups of their nude photos, said they were proud to strip to
draw attention to a team that had attracted almost none when it
headed off to the World Cup in June--to be promptly undressed by
opponents in two defeats and a draw. "We are not big, butch,
masculine, lesbian football players," said defender Amy Taylor,
who will split with her 11 teammates a small royalty for each
"If people want to call it porn, that's their problem," said
forward Katrina Boyd. "No one could make me feel low or sleazy
No, that market had already been cornered by Sydney Olympics
honchos for their naked attempt to--well, why not say it?--scalp
tickets. Scalp them even after the top man, Olympics minister
Michael Knight, announced that every Australian whose name was
in the barrel for the ticket lottery would have an equal chance
and the CEO of the Sydney organizing committee, Sandy Hollway,
insisted no tickets had been set aside for the rich.
Then, during weeks of investigative reporting, parliamentary
hearings and talkback radio outrage, the truth came dribbling
out. As few as 2% of tickets for some high-profile events had
been made available to the public, including just 16 premium
tickets for two nights of diving finals and only 24 spots in the
3,300-seat grandstand for the men's triathlon. Granted, many of
these seats were to go to media, IOC bigwigs, corporate sponsors
(including SI) and foreign Olympic committees. But a walloping
840,000 hush-hush "premium package" ticket allotments with
prices starting at $30,000 had been made available to private
clubs, business leaders and other upper crusters.
When public pressure reached the snapping point, Knight and four
other honchos--Hollway was on vacation--confronted the media but
refused to utter mea culpas. "I am the ugly face of capitalism,"
marketing general manager Paul Reading proclaimed. "I'm not
employed to give advice on equity; this is about raising money."
FIVE BLIND MICE screamed a tabloid headline, and soon more than
half a million new tickets materialized for the public. Hollway
was stripped of some of his duties, Reading was demoted, and
Knight, who has large political ambitions and longs for the
Sydney Games to turn a profit, apologized.
Who were the fat cats who had already bought the hidden tickets?
Demands for their names--and their connections to the emperors
with no clothes--were gathering steam when the Matildas, as the
locals are fond of saying, "got starkers." Never in the history
of sports, or even college dorms, have six men been so glad to
see 12 women get naked.