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

Including Them in Closing Seen as a Real Drag by Some

September 29, 2000

Controversy continues over the inclusion of drag queens in Sunday's closing ceremony as a tribute to the Australian film "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

"The opening ceremony was very Aussie-like in every respect," Elizabeth Scott of the New South Wales Council of Churches said.

"No doubt the closing ceremony will be similar in its dynamism and diversity, but any representation of drag queens will only be depicting one episode in our broad film history."

Meantime, the Sydney Swans, the city's Australian rules football team, have denied that two of their star players have withdrawn from the closing ceremony as a protest against the drag queens. The team, according to local press reports, doesn't want to offend its gay fans.

CAN YOU SPELL K-N-U-C-K-L-E-H-E-A-D-S?

During the women's doubles tennis semifinals, the crowd backing U.S. players Venus and Serena Williams got into a nice, hearty "USA! USA!" chant. The sisters were playing Els Callens and Dominique Van Roost of Belgium, and three middle-aged male fans of the pair decided they would respond with a cheer of their own. So they countered with: "B-E-L-G-I-A-M."

After the third or fourth time, an American told them they were misspelling their chant.

INCLUDING CLIPPER GAMES?

Like Atlantans four years ago, Sydneysiders are waiting expectantly for International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch to declare these the best Games ever during his closing ceremony remarks.

Atlantans were disappointed. (Samaranch merely called their Games "most exceptional." He purposely left the meaning of that open to interpretation.) Sydneysiders probably won't be.

But why wait for Samaranch? Olympic documentarian Bud Greenspan has already declared these Games the best ever. And he's seen more of them than Samaranch, starting in Helsinki in 1952.

Greenspan also called Cathy Freeman's victory in the 400 meters "the greatest day of sports I've ever witnessed."

DON'T GO NEAR THE WATER

The day after a group of Olympic athletes took to the waves for a surfing lesson, authorities on Thursday advised people not to swim at Sydney beaches because of pollution.

With their competitions finished, swimmers including U.S. gold medalists Jenny Thompson and Lenny Krayzelburg, Australian gold medalists Grant Hackett and Michael Klim, and slow swimmer Eric "the Eel" Moussambani hit the surf Wednesday at Bondi beach, site of the beach volleyball competition.

The first-time surfers were reassured by instructors that the beach was free of sharks before donning wetsuits and hitting the waves.

But officials on Thursday closed Sydney beaches, Bondi among them, because of pollution that has washed into the sea from storm drains following rain in the past two days, raising a risk of infection.

THAT MUST HAVE BEEN SOME NIGHT OUT

Australian rower Rachael Taylor was up the creek without a paddle on Thursday after losing her Olympic silver medal.

Taylor, second with Kate Slatter in last Saturday's women's coxless pairs, left her medal in the back of a taxi after a night on the town, the Australian Olympic Committee said.

It has put out an appeal to Sydney taxi companies to hunt for the medal and hand it in at the nearest police station.

CORDIALITY HAS ITS LIMITS

Nikolai Karpol, coach of the Russian women's volleyball team, is among the more emotional coaches of any sport.

During each timeout in his team's 25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 26-28, 15-8 semifinal victory over the U.S. on Thursday, he screamed and gestured wildly at his players, even when they were ahead.

Robert Gambardella, the U.S. team leader, says Karpol is a totally different person away from the court.

"I'm not justifying hollering at players. He's a very demanding guy," Gambardella said. "But we spent two weeks in Moscow with them and he was one of the most cordial people you'd ever want to meet. Before the match, he and I were sitting and watching TV together, watching the track and field and talking about tennis."

The relationship between the U.S. and Russian teams is especially strong because Karpol's daughter, Nadia, is engaged to marry assistant U.S. coach Jeri Estes next month.

"We were kidding with [Estes], saying, "Maybe your dad will give us an early wedding present,' " Gambardella said.

Apparently, though, Karpol isn't that cordial.

SURELY, SHE'D PREFER THE GOLD

Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan was stripped of her gold medal, but she got dinner with Nadia Comaneci.

After her hearing before an arbitration panel, Raducan and her teammates were driven to a downtown luxury hotel, where Comaneci and husband Bart Conner are staying. Comaneci hugged Raducan, then invited her out.

GO ON, GET OUT OF HERE . . .

Sydney Airport officials are urging people not to spend too long welcoming or saying goodbye to friends and visitors Monday, when the international terminal will have its busiest day ever.

Airport spokesman Peter Gibbs said about 28,000 people were expected to fly out of the airport the day after the Olympic closing ceremony.

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