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

Today's Feature: Bug's Life

September 23, 2000

Now that the track and field competition has started, thousands and thousands are packing Olympic Stadium.

Thousands and thousands of giant moths, that is.

According to news reports, the bogong moths, who were migrating from dry areas of Queensland to the cool Snowy Mountains, have detoured to Sydney and been drawn to the lights at the 110,000-seat stadium.

"Moths will flock to such a light and at this time of year you're just asking for it," entomologist Sharon Cory told The Australian newspaper.

The moths, with a wingspan about the size of a sparrow, have swarmed around the towering floodlights but also have swooped down to the track, getting into the face of some athletes as they compete.

Another entomologist, Ted Edwards, said the only way to keep the moths on course would be to turn all the stadium lights off overnight. "Then the moths will have a chance to get away," he said.

Scientists say the moths are harmless.

HE'D 'ROO THE DAY

When U.S. soccer player Mia Hamm and friends visited the Canberra National Aquarium and Wildlife Park to check out the animals, press officer Aaron Heifetz said it reignited a debate that started during the team's last trip to Australia in June about whether David Vanole, the goalkeeper coach, could defeat a kangaroo in a boxing match as he claims.

Said Heifetz: "The consensus among the staff was that while 210-pound Vanole could probably take an eastern gray kangaroo on pure punching power, he doesn't have the quickness, stamina or technique to go the distance with a larger and more aggressive red kangaroo and would likely suffer a TKO no later than the sixth round."

A MONEY PERFORMER

The goggles worn by Equatorial Guinea's Eric Moussambani in one of the slowest swimming races ever at the Olympics have attracted bids of up to $800 (U.S.) in a charity auction.

Moussambani, competing by himself, swam the 100 meters in 1 minute 52.72 seconds, seven seconds slower the winning time in the 200 meters. He was invited to the Games through an International Olympic Committee program that allows a number of athletes from small countries to compete even if they do not meet qualifying standards.

"Bids are coming in from everywhere. Interest in the United States is particularly high," said a spokesman for the charity.

The bodysuit won by Australian swimming star Ian Thorpe is expected to bring in at least $3,000.

BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY

Fans leaving Olympic Park for the train station every night encounter various entertainers--among them bongo players on stilts.

The job requires not only coordination, but endurance: The stilt-dancers' shifts last 45 minutes.

"You'd think we'd have thighs of steel," said Ali Higson, a full-time stilt-walker who performs at various outdoor events and corporate functions.

The interview, however, was brief.

"I'm going to have to keep drumming," said Higson, walking away on stilts without missing a beat.

THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

Long lines are affecting everything in Sydney. Even the brothels, where the wait can be two hours.

"It's like New Year's Eve. We can't keep up with it," a spokeswoman for one legalized brothel told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Clients have ranged from members of an Olympic basketball team to members of a soccer team, she said. But the athletes, issued condoms at the Olympic village when the Games began, have to wait patiently in line.

Another brothel said regulars had abandoned it but Olympic trade was booming with several athletes signing in under the name "John."

Madame Fleiss, an up-market escort agency, said business was up by 30%.

JUST SHOW HER THE COURT

Venus Williams was asked in a news conference Friday whether she had seen Chelsea Clinton, the president's daughter, in the crowd during her match. She said she hadn't, that she needed to watch the ball, not celebrities in the crowd.

But as soon as she left the conference, she was corralled by officials, who brought her to a restricted area. And there was Chelsea, who chatted and traded some pins.

Serena Williams, Venus' sister and the more extroverted of the two, was also there and reportedly dominated the conversation with Chelsea, since both had gone to many events. Venus, by her own admission, has gone nowhere except the tennis courts.

"I'm kind of lazy," Venus said.

CASHING IN ON SUCCESS

Qualifying for the gold medal game should help the U.S. women's water polo team gain recognition--and money.

Its success may even help the men's team, which begins play today.

"As far as the USOC is concerned, you're not on the map unless you're a medal winner, so funding should increase significantly," said Bruce Wigo, executive director of USA Water Polo, the sport's governing body.

"[Aid from the USOC] has been as much as 50% of our budget. This year it was down 35% because we didn't medal in the last Olympics. The way they have the formula set up is they support medal contenders, and this team is a medal contender now."

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