February 01, 2000 03:03pm
Prostitutes gear up for Olympic sex
by: Phil Mercer in Sydney
(SYDNEY, AU) -- Thousands of prostitutes in Australia are gearing up for a sex boom during this year's Olympics.
Brothels are planning an advertising blitz in newspapers and on the internet in preparation for the arrival in Sydney in September of millions of extra tourists.
Some parlour owners are rushing to build new premises to cash in. Others are looking to recruit workers from overseas to help meet the expected surge in demand.
The games run for a fortnight in September.
Maria McMahon is manager at the Sydney-based Sex Workers Outreach Project, which runs a drop-in centre and advice line. "The sex industry here in Sydney is in for its busiest time ever," she says.
The project is launching what it calls a cultural awareness leaflet to let foreign visitors know that the trade is legal. "We want them to enjoy themselves safely here. I'm sure they will. Sydney's got some of the world's best prostitutes!"
There are an estimated 10,000 sex workers in the state of New South Wales, where prostitution and brothels were legalised in 1995.
They are regulated by four main acts of parliament, including public health legislation and also by local councils, who decide where they can and can't operate.
There are strict controls on girls working the streets and on kerb-crawlers. Most brothels are located away from schools and residential areas. It is one of Australia's growth industries.
"There are 24 pages advertising brothels and escort agencies in the Yellow Pages today," says Sydney Madam Catherine O'Malley. "Three years ago there were only two or three."
Madam O'Malley has been in the business for 25 years and owns The Executive Retreat, half a mile from Olympic Park at Homebush in Sydney's western suburbs. It is open 18 hours a day and employs 30 women.
She is building a new state-of-the-art facility next door with 15 bedrooms, a fitness centre, disabled access and pool tables. It'll even have its own built-in cash machine.
Catherine says she is not the only one preparing for a busy September.
"Other owners I know nearer the business district in the city say they've already been hired out by big companies to help look after their international customers and guests flying in for the Games."
Thirty-nine-year-old male prostitute Saul has set up a website advertising his services and has already begun taking orders for September.
Sydney is also expecting a wave of jet-set prostitutes, flying in for the Millennium Olympics. American Victoria Scheider's already here, fresh in from San Francisco. She says she has been offered work at half a dozen city centre brothels: "They're falling over themselves to get me. I'm an American and would be a great item on their list. The men will love me!"
There is also an effort to promote safe sex in the run up to the games.
Bernadette Keefe from the Aids Council of New South Wales, says their campaign will mainly target gay men coming to Australia.
"We'll push the message home through the gay press and make sure pubs, clubs and brothels are well stocked with condoms, lubricants and rubber gloves.
"We're already stocking up. Our rates of HIV here in Sydney are lower than many other big cities. We want to keep it that way."
Even the federal government is getting involved too.
Work Cover, the Australian version of the UK's Health and Safety Executive, is spending public money funding a new sex education video for sex workers in New South Wales.
It is the first of its kind in the world and aims to help workers do their jobs better and more safely. It tells them of their legal rights as employees and advise on how to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Nine million tourists will flock into Australia for the biggest games ever.