Rio Olympics: AOC & MPs back transparent spending debate

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The AOC spent £68m on hosting the Winter Olympics The Australian Olympic Committee and representatives of the nation’s progressive parties say they’re holding the government to account over the…

Rio Olympics: AOC & MPs back transparent spending debate

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The AOC spent £68m on hosting the Winter Olympics

The Australian Olympic Committee and representatives of the nation’s progressive parties say they’re holding the government to account over the timing of a spending bill.

The Parliament passed a bill that included the Rio Olympics as one of the country’s “core events” last week, potentially granting amnesty to those involved in the Rio 2016 Games, including the AOC.

Campaigners claim the amnesty could have cost taxpayers up to £238m ($360m) – that means some AOC officials would have seen their savings eroded by the costs of hosting Rio.

It is being alleged the AOC “stole” the Games in order to make its event more attractive to bid on.

Dozens of government and crossbench lawmakers all registered their opposition, when debating the legislation on Thursday.

Politicians joined a YouGov survey, which found the majority of Aussies are concerned about the potentially “massive cost” of hosting the Games.

AOC chief executive John Coates told the BBC he was meeting AOC members to discuss the situation.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Rio Games were held in 2016 and cost Australia over £200m

On Friday, AOC president, Fiona de Jong, wrote to parliamentarians saying that “we would need to revisit our legal advice if Rio was moved to 2022”.

Transport Minister, Darren Chester, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that the bill now has the support of a majority of the coalition’s MPs.

This provides a bar at the end of a long parliamentary process which has to pass through the Houses of Parliament before it can be signed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Dr de Jong responded by posting an open letter calling on senators to prevent any amnesty.

“I’m calling for a robust response from the Australian Senate to ensure that Australian taxpayers’ money is not exploited for political and personal gain,” she wrote.

“We need to question who’s benefiting at the expense of the people of Australia.”

The Senate passes bills on second reading and reported amendments on final reading.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm believes the fallout over the Olympics could be worse than former governor-general Quentin Bryce’s resignation last December.

“I would predict we would have a whole new political campaign against the government to try and get the Winter Olympics postponed or cancelled,” he told the ABC.

“Rio was a happy, peaceful, amazing Games. But many Australians think this year, in fact, was hell, and it was a marvellous way to see the Australian public turn on the Government.”

Mr Coates, who was in London for the awards ceremony on Monday, said he could not comment further on the situation in Australia.

“We have to take care of our own business and our own members first, not lobby politicians here in Canberra,” he told the BBC.

“Any claim by anyone that the AOC committed fraud is false.”

The Rio Olympics began on 5 August 2016, with the closing ceremony taking place on 14 August.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Over 900 arrests were made during the Rio Games

According to local media, over 900 arrests were made during the Games, as compared to 387 in Beijing four years earlier, when the city hosted the Olympics.

The AOC spent £68m ($104m) on hosting the event, with the majority of that expenditure going to the hosting and security of the Games.

A new stadium was built for the Rio Games, one of five stadiums to be used during the event and another of six that had previously been used for the city’s football club, Atletico Paranaense.

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