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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Right Off the Bat, This Event Could Be in Trouble

August 18, 2000|SHAV GLICK

Australian Olympic hosts plan to showcase Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens as a major tourist attraction during the Games. The Olympic triathlon will run through the 74-acre urban oasis, located near the Sydney Opera House.

Only one problem--fruit bats, sometimes known as flying foxes. Thousands of them gather at night, spreading their yard-long wingspans to fly. They eat the plants and on damp days, give the gardens a distinctive smell of urine.

According to USA Today, Sydney park administrators have tried to scare away the bats by starting up chain saws at times when the bats like to sleep.

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On the other hand: The five-ring Olympics logo will light up Sydney's Harbor Bridge for the Games. The rings will contain 170,000 individual lights and will form a structure 248 feet long and 116 feet high.

The rings are blue, yellow, black, green and red. At least one of those colors is contained on the national flag of every competing country.

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Trivia time: The winner of the 1960 Olympic decathlon championship turns 65 today. Who is he?

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Dangerous game: Seventeen high school-age football players across the country died last year, five from head injuries suffered on the field, according to a University of North Carolina study.

And for the first time, a girl playing football was paralyzed in 1999, when 708 girls played on boys' football teams, the study also found.

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Fight talk: Drag racer Tony Pedregon credits having trained as a boxer for much of his success as a funny car driver.

"After work, when I was growing up . . . I took up boxing because it really kept me active and taught me a lot of discipline. The mentality of a boxer is really a lot like the mentality of a drag racer. I learned about controlling my fears and emotions and turning that adrenaline rush into something positive."

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Help wanted: With ballparks getting smaller and hitters getting bigger, finding enough pitchers is becoming a major problem for big league teams.

"It's not much fun for pitching coaches right now," Brent Storm, a former big-league pitcher who oversees the Kansas City Royals' staff, told Mike Berardino of the Orlando Sentinel.

"Right now we're all just trying to weather the storm. Every out becomes like gold. We need to do something to help these guys and bring some sanity back to the game."

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Come on back: FIFA, soccer's international governing body, has lifted a ban on the use of Harare's National Stadium in Zimbabwe, where 13 people were killed in a stampede last month, for international matches.

Chaos broke out after police fired tear gas to control unruly fans watching the match. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe subsequently accused opposition agitators of provoking the violence that triggered the tragedy.

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Trivia answer: Rafer Johnson.

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And finally: Japan's biggest travel agencies are offering a three-day, zero-night package for the Olympics, with no hotels or meals--and tickets are selling fast.

For the equivalent of $1,730, Japanese will be able to board a plane Tuesday, Sept. 19, fly nine hours to watch an Olympic event and get back on the plane to arrive in time for work Thursday.

"They'll have to sleep and eat on the plane or get something there when they arrive," said Tsuyoshi Kurata, a spokesman for Japan Travel Bureau. "We created this tour for people who don't have much time."

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