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|August 22, 2000||
Baywatch revisited in Sydney
Australia's famed surf lifesavers are to be called to beaches in full force a month early to protect thousands of overseas Olympic tourists from getting into trouble.
The bronzed lifesavers -- broad-shouldered icons in their red and yellow caps -- rescue hundreds of swimmers every summer, many of them tourists unaware of local currents and tides.
To cope with the influx of thousands of Olympic visitors, surf patrols will be doubled on many beaches and the surf season, normally coinciding with the start of summer, will be brought forward a month to the first weekend in September.
The Games start on September 15.
On Australian beaches, special flags are set up in supervised areas, and swimmers are urged to swim only between those flags.
"We have a unique system of surf lifesaving here, and people have never seen this type of flag system before," said Surf Life Saving Australia spokeswoman Jodi Paton.
Tourist authorities will put multilingual information in hotels and motels for the Olympic period to spread the safety message.
"It comes up in the drowning statistics -- our beaches are a lot more open and accessible and people just get out of their depth," Paton told Reuters.
Last year, 10 of 53 people who drowned off the coast of New South Wales state were from overseas.
The lifesavers are a mixture of paid council staff, who patrol beaches during the week, and volunteers who work at weekends when beaches are crowded.
There are about 10,000 active members of the Surf Life Saving Association in New South Wales alone.
Mail Sports Editor
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