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|September 6, 2000||
Eyesore makes Bondi see redPaul Majendie in Sydney
Nothing riles an old surfer like the desecration of an Australian icon.
Gazing out over the 10,000-seat stand driven into the sacred sand, he said: "God did a good job when he created Bondi. Why ruin it?"
He, like many residents, is enraged. "It is a monstrosity... it's just like a huge water pipe."
Kelly, sipping his morning coffee in the beahfront Lamrock cafe, certainly won't be there to cheer on the volleyball teams. "I am going away. I'm going up north to Noosa to find some better surf."
Steel security fences ring the stadium. Police with guard dogs patrol the beach's edge. On a sunny spring day, it is certainly a sight that jars on the sweeping stretch of golden sand.
Manuel Recio, pumping iron with his fellow bodybuilders down on the beach, gazed across at the stadium in disgust. "It does look so ugly with the barbed wire on the top of the fence. People are very upset. It looks like a concentration camp."
John Senes, taking his morning walk along the beach, said: "It upsets me seeing barbed wire and I cannot get to one third of my beach. Staging the beach volleyball here was a great selling point for Sydney with the Olympic organisers -- but they put forward the idea without asking us. Bondi is a very populated area."
Peter Nesci runs the Lamrock, a favourite watering hole for the laid-back locals, and is much more phlegmatic about the Olympic beach invasion. "It's only a temporary thing. It will all be gone by October."
But he insists that "Bondi doesn't need any more advertising.
"It's a beautiful spot. The culture is very casual here. You get everyone from gays to all walks of life. No one blinks an eye at you even if you are dressed in a pig suit."
As if on cue, a bald man walks down the main street in a dress. Not one of the coffee drinkers bats an eyelid. For Bondi is like Venice Beach in California or Miami's South Beach -- a paradise for exhibitionists who want to strut their stuff and show off the bronzed body beautiful.
It is all a far cry from the late 1890s when the first Aussie "crank pioneers" defied the law which restricted bathing to the early hours of the morning or after dark.
Then in 1903 a clergyman and a respectable bank clerk flouted the ban and took the plunge. The local newspaper said the two had "made a disgusting spectacle of themselves." But they had opened the floodgates and Sydneysiders followed in their thousands.
It was Duke Kahanamoku of Honolulu who introduced surfing to Australians and, ironically for what has become a predominantly male preserve, the first person to take it up was a woman.
Now beach volleyball, a sport vying for much needed television time to boost its international position, can hardly wait to take centre stage on one of the world's most famous beaches.
"This is just amazing. This venue will be the star of the games," forecast Sarah Straton, making her Olympic debut with the Australian team.
Many beach volleyball tournaments around the world are conducted on artificial inland venues which Straton condemned as "fakes, fakes, fakes" compared to the real thing at Bondi.
And as the local Daily Telegraph sports columnist Ron Reed concluded: "What could be more spectator-friendly than sitting in the sun with a burger in one hand, a beer in the other, watching girls in well-filled bikinis leaping about in the sand."
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