The Olympic Park site now features a new suburb of over 1,000 residences as well as a new railway line and station, Showground, Olympic sports venues and parklands. With a professional design content even more pervasive than that employed in the development of Canberra, this is one of Australia's most significant and ambitious urban developments. The project is also notable as an exception to the introverted economic and political climate of the late-1990s - both the NSW and Australian governments completed a project conceived by their predecessors in more expansive times.
The models are appealing and significant documents of this major urban development. They are also an important record of Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 Olympics.
Sydney's Olympics strategy was to present a bid which was technically stronger than its rivals. The emphasis was on better venues at an advanced stage of planning and an athletes village on the same site as the major venues - no other bidder could match this aspect of the bid. As a result, an unusual degree of architectural commitment was made before the bid outcome was known. The results of this commitment were the central element of the bid. David Churches, the architect in charge of design for the Sydney Bid, stated in early 1993 that the designs presented to the International Olympic Committee 'are not so much technical resolutions but concepts which we can use for marketing...nevertheless, there must be sufficient resolution to satisfy everyone that the proposals can work' [Architecture Australia, May/June 1993, p.62].
The models were crucial to this architectural marketing. In his memoir of Sydney's Olympic bid, Rod McGeoch emphasised their importance to the successful campaign: 'The bid office contained superb models of the venues...These models gave the big picture in a way no amount of mapping, photography or computer modelling could rival. The concrete product we were selling centred on the high technical standard of these, the credibility of what was planned or being built and every advantage they offered. Good products cannot be left to sell themselves'. The models are thus not only a record of the Bid but an element in its success.
Since the success of the Sydney bid in September 1993, design and planning of the Olympic venues saw substantial changes. Of the seven models, only the Velodrome, elements of the Olympic Village and Olympic Park are accurate representations of the planned venues. However, the documentary value of the models is not compromised by the substantial gap between what was proposed in 1992 and 1993 and delivered in 2000.
Since the financially disastrous Montreal Olympics of 1976, most Olympic cities, notably Los Angeles, Barcelona and Atlanta, have hosted the Games primarily in existing venues. This was not an option for Sydney, which lacked numerous Olympic-standard venues, notably a large stadium.Sydney's proposal to create a vast new sporting and residential complex at Homebush was largely dependent on the success of its Olympic bid. That most of the proposed venues were only to be built if the 2000 Games were secured emphasised their uncertain ongoing viability. The long-term financial viability of two major commitment - the Olympic Stadium and the Athletes Village - was considered particularly marginal.
The NSW Government found private investors prepared to take most of the financial risk for these two projects. The Government's caution has proved to well-founded in respect of the stadium. In contrast the former Athletes Village - now the suburb of Newington - has proved to be both a financial and an architectural success. More broadly Olympic Park has proved a catalyst for residential development in surrounding suburbs. The Canada Bay area - including Rhodes, Meadowbank and Liberty Grove - by 2010 had the fastest population growth in Sydney.
Charles Pickett, curator.