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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SPOTLIGHT / The
Short and Sweet Side to the Games

A Lyrical Champ

September 17, 2000

It's bad enough that Aussies love corny songs from the 1970s and '80s, blaring them on radios and through loudspeakers during these Games.

Worse yet that they have used Abba's long-ago hit "Fernando" as the tune for an ode to swimmer Ian Thorpe. It goes something like this:

"There was something in the pool tonight.

In black and white.

Thorpedo.

He was shining there for you and me.

All we could see.

Thorpedo.

Though we never thought that he could lose.

With those big feet . . .

If he had to do the same again.

He would, my friends.

Thorpedo."

Another tribute song, "Ian Thorpe, Ian Thorpe," is sung to the tune of "New York, New York."

Then there's the increasingly popular "He's Got The Whole World In His Pants."

NOW HE GETS OFFICIAL STAMP OF APPROVAL

His coach has proclaimed Thorpe the swimmer of the century and the Australian post office apparently is perfectly willing to go along with that.

Australia Post announced after Thorpe had won two gold medals Saturday night that commemorative stamps bearing his likeness would be available today. One stamp will feature Thorpe as winner of the 400-meter freestyle, the other Thorpe and his teammates as winners of the 400 freestyle relay.

Thorpe will be the first Aussie athlete so honored, but--Australia Post fervently hopes--not the last. The post office plans to put out stamps with the images of all Australian gold-medal winners by midday the day after their victories.

HERE'S TO GOOD FRIENDS

Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres were teammates on the U.S. women's 400-meter freestyle relay team that won a gold medal and set a world record Saturday.

That doesn't mean the rivals returned to the athletes' village and celebrated together.

Asked where Thompson and Torres are rooming, a U.S. official said, "As far away from each other as possible."

NO WONDER PIAZZA WAS UNAFFORDABLE

News Corp.'s annual report was released here this week, and you'll never guess who was the leading money maker in Rupert Murdoch's firm.

It was Peter Chernin, who made $21.38 million last year.

You remember Chernin. He was one of the two Fox bosses who nearly ran the Dodgers into the ground before hiring front man Bob Daly last year, who has so far continued Chernin's legacy.

Some believe Chernin and his executives are still quietly calling the shots.

If so, this salary might then explain why Chernin doesn't seem distressed by the millions blown on Carlos Perez and Devon White.

WHAT'S HIS OPINION OF CHINA'S PERFORMANCE?

Tom Lasorda, manager of the U.S. baseball team, has agreed to wear a microphone for the game against China that will be part of MSNBC's coverage today.

NEXT STOP, BEN & JERRY'S

It's hard to tell what's worse.

The fact that desperate Olympic officials are hiring new bus drivers from the army whose only previous experience has been with tanks. . . .

Or that they are trying to keep other bus drivers from quitting by giving them free ice cream.

LIFTING A PORTION OF THE TRADE DEFICIT

Qatar isn't considered a weightlifting power, but that might change, now that the country has imported eight second-teamers from the Bulgarian squad.

Bulgaria's weightlifting federation reportedly received $1 million in the transaction.

The lifters are competing here after receiving new passports and Arabic names.

WANTED: GREEKS WITH GODDESS-LIKE SWINGS

Think you're pretty good at softball during the company picnic?

Perhaps you can be an Olympian in 2004 in Athens.

The Greeks, as the host country, have qualified for the Games in softball, but they have a shortage of players. The head of the international federation, Don Porter of Oklahoma City, is trying to find players from other countries who have Greek heritage.

CEREMONY DRAWS SILVER-MEDAL AUDIENCE

NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony in Sydney got a 16.1 national Nielsen rating with a 29 share of the audience, which is considerably lower than the 23.6/45 for the opening ceremony at Atlanta four years ago but better than the 13.8/29 for Barcelona in 1992.

The 16.1 is the highest rating for the opening ceremony of any Olympics held outside the U.S. NBC estimates 56 million people watched part or all of its coverage Friday night.

FANS, ATHLETES REALLY DIALED IN

These are the Cell Phone Olympics, with seemingly every visitor armed with an Australian mobile phone.

Telstra, the Australian phone company, reported that spectators and athletes made 125,000 calls during the opening ceremony, a surge that peaked during the athletes parade.

Calls made from Olympic Park during the ceremony totaled 200,000 minutes--the equivalent of 20 weeks on the phone, the Sunday Telegraph determined.

TALK ABOUT A TEAM THAT'S PUNCH DRUNK

The Australian boxing team may be one of the worst collections of athletes in the Games, but it continues to be one of the most interesting.

One day after light flyweight Bradley Hore was disqualified for being two pounds overweight despite coating himself in honey and sitting long hours in the sauna, his team manager's mouth grabbed the spotlight.

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