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|September 2, 2000||
Sydney applies finishing touches to makeupJulian Linden in Sydney
On the first day of spring, the harbour city's main Olympic sites at Homebush Bay, Darling Harbour and the Olympic Village were declared off-limits to the general public.
Heavy steel fencing was erected around venues and the most popular city attractions while more than a thousand security guards moved into position.
Police and armed forces swept through the Olympic sites in a final search for bombs and weapons, with onlookers ordered to keep away until the opening ceremony on September 15. The Games end on October 1.
The only people now allowed inside the Olympic precincts are those with official accreditation. Even then, they have to go through metal detectors and have their bags searched.
Security is regarded as the single most important issue of hosting a successful Olympics and the man in charge of protecting the athletes and spectators declared Australia's biggest city ready to handle any terrorist threat.
"We are prepared to respond to it," New South Wales police commissioner Peter Ryan told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
"We've planned, we've trained, we've put all resources in."
Road works and construction sites have been cleared and finishing touches are being applied to Australia's largest city.
They include everything from colourful street banners to the addition of five giant illuminated Olympic rings on the famed coat-hanger shaped Harbour Bridge.
With the eyes of the world starting to focus on Sydney, New South Wales state premier Bob Carr said the city was ready to put on a show to be remembered.
"The city looks terrific," the premier told reporters. "All the patience of Sydneysiders and all of the hard work is going to be witnessed by the world."
As winter turned to spring on Friday, almost on cue, the atmosphere in Sydney also began to change, and residents finally began to embrace the Olympic spirit.
Like previous host cities, the people of Sydney have lost their Olympic innocence along the way to the Games.
But as the Games draw closer, the bitterness, mostly caused by a series of ugly scandals and bitter rows, seems to have been forgotten.
Ticket and merchandise sales have picked up and there is a distinct scent of optimism in the air.
Visitors are also starting to arrive, and foreign tourists and television crews are battling each other for the best location shots.
Athletes have also started arriving although most have elected to train further north in warmer climates to avoid being caught up in the glare.
There are still some major concerns about how Sydney's creaking transport system will cope with the influx of visitors and fears that Sydney's unpredictable weather will turn foul but the overall mood is now upbeat.
"Have you noticed how knockers of the Sydney Olympics have gone decidedly quiet?" leading Sydney sports writer Mike Gibson wrote of the change in mood.
"If you can't enjoy the Olympic Games in your own city, if you can't share the spirit, the joy and the tears, I suggest you find a coffin, lie down inside, and ask the bloke next door to get his tool box and hammer down the lid."
Mail Sports Editor
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