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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | NOTES

Van Leased to Koreans Hijacked by Convicts

September 20, 2000|From Staff and Wire Reports

The driver of a van leased to the South Korean Olympic committee was waiting for a red light to change in Sydney when the vehicle was hijacked by two escaped convicts.

The driver, identified only as Kwang-Ko, was one of four occupants, including a South Korean Olympic official, who were in the van Tuesday when the prisoners jumped in near the main site of the Sydney Games.

"I stopped at the traffic lights and suddenly someone opened the front door and got in," the volunteer driver told the Seven television network. "I tried to control the wheel of the car, but they forced me to move out of the driver's seat. They eventually took control of the car."

All four occupants were freed unharmed a short time later, and the escaped convicts abandoned the car and fled on foot.

The car was seized at Silverwater, a Sydney suburb adjacent to Olympic Park and the site of the large minimum-security Silverwater prison, according to police.

None of the occupants was taken hostage in the escape, Sydney Olympics organizing committee spokesman Milton Cockburn said.

One of the occupants was Yoon Jong-koo, an official of the South Korean Olympic committee, and the other three were South Korean volunteers from Australia, said Choi Eun-gi, a spokesman for the delegation.

Two of the volunteers were a married couple, Peter and Terry Lee. Terry Lee, who is six months pregnant, was taken to a specialist maternity hospital for observation.

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Christine Arron of France, a medal contender in the women's 100 meters, might sit out the event because of a throat infection, the French team's doctor said.

"To recover from that type of illness, you need from four to seven days, which means there is a risk she might not be well in time for the heats on Friday," Didier Polin said.

Arron, 27, burst into the limelight by winning gold at the 1998 European championships in a European-record 10.73 seconds.

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Rod McGeoch, who led the Sydney 2000 bid to host the Olympics, is hospitalized with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The newspaper said that McGeoch was admitted to a private hospital last weekend. He had run a section of the torch relay in Australia's Victoria state last week but hasn't been able to take part in any other Olympic festivities.

McGeoch resigned from the board of the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and lost his role in Games preparation late in 1998 after questions were raised over how his business life might have affected his SOCOG role.

Sydney was awarded the Games in 1993.

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Lance Armstrong is ready to ride in the Olympics, declaring himself almost fully recovered from a broken neck vertebra suffered in a training crash last month.

Although his neck remains stiff, the two-time Tour de France winner said he'll be ready for the Sept. 27 road race and the Sept. 30 time trial, an event in which he's among the gold medal favorites and one he has tailored his training to fit.

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The miner's lamps that carried the Olympic torch flame on its 100-day relay trek across Australia have been stolen.

Police are probing the theft of the two lamps, which vanished after the torch arrived at Stadium Australia on Friday for the opening ceremony. The caldron was lit by Aboriginal running star Cathy Freeman.

"They are more important for their historical and sentimental value than their monetary value," said a spokesman for the Sydney organizers who were already embarrassed by another incident--the photocopying of accreditation passes of some famous athletes.

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