Medal design sparks row

A row has broken out in Australia over an embarrassing design on the medals for next month's Sydney Olympics which depict a Roman…

A row has broken out in Australia over an embarrassing design on the medals for next month's Sydney Olympics which depict a Roman colosseum rather than a Greek temple.

Australia's Greek language newspaper O Kosmos described the medal design as "the ultimate ignorance" and demanded Athens should not repeat the mistake at the Summer Olympics in 2004.

"The colosseum is a stadium of blood. It has nothing to do with the Olympic ideals of peace and brotherhood," O Kosmos editor George Hadjivassilis said. Sydney Games organisers blamed the International Olympic Committee (IOC), saying it vetoed plans to put the city's Opera House on the medals and instead ordered a "generic colosseum" as background.

They said the IOC advised that the traditional colosseum design they wanted should be derived from a 1928 medal by Italian sculpture Guiseppe Cassioli for the Amsterdam Games.


The officials said the design is a generic colosseum, not the famous Roman one.

But Wojciech Pietranik, who designed the Sydney medals, told The Australian newspaper he used the Roman Colosseum as a model.

"It was supposed to show Nike, the Goddess of Victory, visiting Sydney (depicted by the Opera House) . . . but there was a change because of the rules," Pietranik told the newspaper.

Spectators will be allowed to wave the Aboriginal flag at Olympic venues, Sydney Games' organisers said yesterday. SOCOG spokesman Milton Cockburn said a report in The Sunday Age newspaper that SOCOG had banned spectators from taking the Aboriginal flag into stadiums was wrong.

Under a long-standing rule, flags from non-participating countries may not be flown at the Games. But the Aboriginal flag would not be considered in this light.

Australia's highest-profile track and field athlete, Cathy Freeman, draped herself in the Aboriginal and Australian flags during her victory lap after winning the 400 metres at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

Aboriginal leaders welcomed the news the flag of indigenous Australians would be seen at the Olympics but were concerned that athletes might have medals taken from them if they tried to emulate Freeman.

Meanwhile, Australian customs officials made a record 1,125 seizures of performance-enhancing drugs over the past 12 months, up 16 per cent on the previous year, the national government said yesterday.

Most of the seizures were of anabolic and androgenic steroids which are restricted from import in Australia but are available "over-the-counter" from pharmacies in some countries.

While the drugs are sometimes used by athletes to boost performance levels, a spokesman for Justice and Customs Minister Amanda Vanstone said there was no way of knowing whether the increased flow could be tied to the Sydney Olympics starting next month.

The seizures were 40 times more numerous than in the 1994-95 fiscal year, Vanstone said in a statement.