The scramble to secure funds for the Sydney 2002 Gay Games has turned into a game of political football between the City of Sydney and South Sydney Council.

South Sydney last night voted five to four in favour of a motion to provide a $250,000 guarantee for Sydney 2002, after a day of high drama and political posturing. However South Sydney refused to be drawn by City of Sydney lord mayor Frank Sartor’s provocative demand that they (South Sydney) provide an additional $200,000 in cash.

Both councils were approached last week by Games organisers and asked to be co-guarantors for a bank loan of $500,000. The loan will secure the early release of ticket revenue held by Ticketek.

Sartor fired off a last-minute fax yesterday afternoon, calling for South Sydney to put its money where its mouth was.

In the fax to South Sydney mayor Tony Pooley, Sartor wrote that the City of Sydney had already put in $400,000 (including $200,000 cash), and would not sign on as guarantors for the Games until South Sydney matched their contribution.

The City does not consider it appropriate that it contribute more towards the Games than South Sydney Council, he wrote.

Sartor also sent a letter to lawyer Peter Grogan, representative of a group of community members who last week agreed to act as co-guarantors in order to secure the early release of Games ticket revenue.

In the letter, Sartor wrote he was concerned City of Sydney ratepayers had been expected to bear too much of the cost of the Games.

I am advised that South Sydney City Council, which has a gay constituency an order of magnitude greater than the City’s constituency, has not to date made any unfettered cash contribution to the Gay Games, Sartor wrote.

The City has been a supporter of the Gay Games from the very beginning and its commitment to date has been generous. However, we have a duty to ensure that the burden of support is not disproportionately borne by our ratepayers.

Pooley shot a fax back: South Sydney Council will not, repeat not, be providing a direct cash contribution to the Gay Games.

South Sydney Council has provided support to the Gay Games in excess of $440,000 on a much smaller annual budget than is available to the City of Sydney, and it commenced that support much earlier in time than the City of Sydney, he wrote.

At the Council meeting last night, Pooley described Sartor’s letter as disgraceful and offensive.

While Gay Games organisers will be heartened by the news of the South Sydney deal, it is unlikely now that the City of Sydney will act as co-guarantor. Their support of the proposal, agreed to at a City Council meeting on Monday night, was conditional on South Sydney matching the City’s $200,000 cash contribution to the games. The City had planned to impose a range of other conditions on the deal as well, including a full audit of Sydney 2002.

However the Lord Mayor did this week agree to waive a $50,000 bond for the use of Hyde Park North as a Gay Games hub, which will see the site function as originally planned.

Other good news for Games organisers came late yesterday, when it was announced that an undisclosed portion of ticket revenue would be released by Ticketek as soon as Friday, alleviating Sydney 2002’s cash crunch.

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