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|August 30, 2000||
Officials hopeful of Canberra kick off
Olympic organisers were more confident on Wednesday of being able to prepare a soccer pitch playing surface at Canberra in time for next month's Games, averting the need to move matches away from the federal capital.
The Bruce Stadium pitch was relaid earlier this month but officials said on Tuesday the grass, grown in Cairns in tropical north Queensland, had been affected by Canberra's colder weather and may not be ready for kick-off on September 13.
But Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) official Graham Richardson, mayor of the Olympic Village, said discussions with a Melbourne firm earlier on Wednesday over relaying the turf could solve the problem, bringing the pitch up to FIFA standards in time.
"The odds have changed. Yesterday it was less than 50/50 but it's looking a lot better now," Richardson told a lunch at the National Press Club.
"But even though I am more confident, there will be some contingency plans made in Sydney."
Richardson said the new turf, if the work was approved by officials later on Wednesday, could be ready by September 7.
"(This should be) early enough for us to make a better judgment. There seems to be quite a bit of confidence that that turf will last the distance," he said.
SOCOG vice-president John Coates has said he wants a decision on whether to change venues by Sunday.
Canberra was expected to host 11 of the 48 Olympics soccer matches at Bruce Stadium, kicking off with Australia playing Germany in the opening women's fixture on September 13 followed by a men's game between the United States and Czech Republic.
Grass was also relaid at the 40,000-seat Sydney Football Stadium a week ago but without any problems.
The main Olympic Stadium, which hosts the men's soccer final on September 30, will have its pitch relaid after the opening ceremony on September 15.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground will be resurfaced after the Australian Football League final on Sunday. Soccer will also be played at the Brisbane Cricket Ground and at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide.
Mail Sports Editor
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