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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SPOTLIGHT / THE
SHORT AND SWEET SIDE OF THE GAMES

No Fashion Tips Either

September 20, 2000

American author Bill Bryson, whose book, "In a Sunburned Country," is considered must reading by U.S. Olympic journalists, is writing a newspaper column in the Age of Melbourne.

The latest installment concerned how little most Americans know about Australia, as evidenced by Newsday recently referring to Sydney as "the Australian capital."

"So the Olympics obviously represent a golden opportunity for some of America's most gifted and thoughtful commentators to rectify this regrettable shortfall in our knowledge," Bryson wrote. "Unfortunately, they've sent sportswriters instead."

FEEL FREE TO KICK THEM WHILE THEY'RE DOWN UNDER

"Sportswriters, as a rule, are not the most sensitive and appreciative of world travelers," Bryson wrote. "These are people who like their comforts to be reliable and uncomplicated [and] for whom the words 'stylish' and 'nylon' are not necessarily incompatible."

PENNEY'S THOUGHTS ON WORLD GEOGRAPHY

Here's a feat that won't be matched any time soon.

Kirk Penney is the first New Zealander to play in the NCAA Final Four and the Olympics in the same year.

"It's a real honor," said Penney, a freshman on Wiscoynsin's Final Four team last season.

He'll probably be the only player to manage the doublkce for a long time. New Zealand, winless in its first two games, is making its first Olympic basketball appearance after qualifying out of Oceania only because comparative powerhouse Australia received an automatic bid as the host country.

Some Americans don't even realize New Zealand is its xown country and not part of Australia, Penney said.

"They think it's part of Europe, or England, or off the coast of Florida. It's pretty screwed up," he said with a laugh.

Actually, New Zealand is a three-hour flight from Australia, and has a distinct culture.

"Different accents, for starters. They've got more of a twang," Penney said. "Different icons, the kangaroo and the kiwi. And we're more laid back. Although they are too, in comparison with America."

CONDOM-MANIA AMONG CUBANS IN OLYMPIC VILLAGE

Women's basketball player Michele Timms of Australia, tremendously popular in her homeland, appeared on a rather freewheeling local TV sports show the other day and was quizzed about what she had observed regarding the condom distribution to athletes in the village.

Said Timms: "I think the Cubans are winning that race."

SOUVENIR HAWKERS IN RACE FOR OLYMPIC GOLD

Maybe it's the $40 T-shirts.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that teams of security guards are replenishing ATMs at Olympic Park every night with $150,000 in cash, so souvenir-hungry fans can buy pins, caps, posters and other mementos.

According to the newspaper, more than $1.9 million has been withdrawn from the 22 ATMs on the grounds.

A FEW DAYS LATER, HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THORPEDO II

Lulia Mose of Sydney went into labor with her sixth child during Friday's opening ceremony, so she knew no ordinary name would do for the baby that was born 12:02 a.m. Saturday.

The little boy's name?

Olympius.

NAKED AMBITION DOESN'T TIP SCALES

Debbie Allan of England, a gold medal hopeful in judo, was disqualified for failing to make her fighting weight after weighing herself on practice scales that had been tampered with.

When Allan was weighed, she complained the scales were uneven. When officials looked at the mechanism, they found someone had inserted tissue paper into the machinery, which resulted in falsely low readouts.

When the scales were recalibrated, Allan--the 1999 European champion in the 52-kilogram class--was 400 grams (about 13 ounces) over the limit. She exercised frantically for three hours, cut off most of her long hair and weighed herself while naked, but she was 50 grams over the limit and was sent home.

ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE, AT LEAST THEY'RE SHOWN LIVE

U.S. women's soccer midfielder Lorrie Fair, passing judgment on the Olympic television fare being offered in Australia:

"Those trap shooters are talented, but I can't watch 25 rounds of it."

IT SEEMS NOBODY CAN GET IT RIGHT

U.S. viewers should have it this good.

Among the daily controversies getting play in Sydney newspapers today was the huge gaffe by Seven Australia, the network with the local broadcast rights. Australian swimmer Susie O'Neill won the 200-meter freestyle, but Seven picked up the action about 10 seconds too late, staying with the Qantas ad it was running rather than cutting away for the start of the race.

Thousands of angry phone calls resulted.

Word was that, in the United States, NBC will show O'Neill's victory sometime before Christmas.

NOTE TO OUR READERS: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME

Round-the-clock television coverage of the Games can cause a few slips of the tongue, not least of which was Australian commentator Sandy Roberts' remark while covering the men's gymnastics that one Chinese athlete could "hang his head high" after his pommel horse routine.

HE'S STILL STEAMED ABOUT ATLANTA GAMES

It's never too late to take another shot at the 1996 Olympics, it seems.

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