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|August 21, 2000||
Sydney cool to Summer GamesScott McDonald in Sydney
Welcome to the Land Down Under Summer Olympics, where locals are waiting for winter to end before getting into the party mood.
With the Summer Games less than a month away, the atmosphere in Sydney is still cool for the size of the party the city is about to give.
Australians are famous for their love of sports, a place where swimmers are national heroes known to every schoolchild, but that exuberance has yet to emerge as the final countdown gets under way to the September 15 opening ceremony.
The downtown area has banners up, but they are for the Olympic Art Festival.
There are a few stores selling Olympic souvenirs.
But there is no comparison to Japan's Nagano, site of the last Olympics, where the 1998 Winter Games were held, or Atlanta, site of the last 1996 Summer Olympics.
Almost every store in those two cities had an Olympic display boasting of the coming world gathering months, even years, before the Olympic torch arrived.
"We support the Games, we just aren't ready yet," one Sydney store assistant said when asked where the Olympic souvenir displays were.
Even some of the major Olympic sponsors, such as McDonald's, do not have any Olympic displays up yet in Sydney.
Nike has announced plans to put up a 70-metre (230-ft) high billboard of Australian track star Cathy Freeman on the side of a Sydney building -- sometime in the next two weeks.
There are some signs that Australia's largest city is expecting to have its population of 4.5 million swollen by up to one million.
Warnings painted on streets tell pedestrians to "look right" -- Australians drive on the opposite side of the road from North Americans and most Europeans -- but there is little else.
With Australia just coming out of the southern hemisphere winter, many people are still bundled up against the cold in Sydney.
Some buses are plastered with Olympic posters and messages, but as many others carry advertisements for cold remedies.
Even though final touches are being put in place, including huge Olympic rings on Sydney Harbour Bridge facing the world famous Sydney Opera House, some residents feel not enough has been done.
"There is too much indifference in the city about the future of Sydney. The fact we haven't even dressed the city for the Olympic Games yet says a lot about what we are like," said Rod McGeoch, the Sydney 2000 Olympic bid chief who resigned from the organising board in 1998.
"We are finally getting a set of rings up on the bridge for a bid we won seven years ago. That says a lot about the indifference running through the place," McGeoch was quoted as saying by The Australian Financial Review.
All Olympic venues were completed on or ahead of schedule, and have drawn wide praise,
But trying to find a sign at the main train station in Sydney saying how to get to Homebush Bay, the main Olympic site about 20 km (12.5 miles) away, is another matter.
The current Australian Olympic athletic trials are overshadowed by the news that a top local television presenter who was to do Olympic shows was having an affair with a married coworker.
The affair was splashed on the front pages of local newspapers, resulting in the television network pulling the presenter off its Olympic coverage.
Ironically, the Channel 7 network, the domestic rights holder for coverage of sporting competition, was one of the first to get its Olympic posters out on the city's fleet of buses.
They are now considering whether to change the posters because the presenter is featured prominently in them.
Mail Sports Editor
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