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September 9, 2000
Lay a hundred on for me, mateJulian Linden
It's a safe bet that the International Olympic Committee will be keeping an eagle eye on gambling at the Sydney Games after failing to get Australia to ban Olympic betting.
Athletes, coaches and officials are free to bet despite fears gambling might lead to corruption and match-fixing.
The IOC says it is monitoring the situation but doubts an athlete would throw away a medal for money.
"The Olympics is one chance in a lifetime. It is more important," IOC spokesman Franklin Servan-Schreiber said.
"It is not a pressure issue at the moment but yes we are monitoring this situation closely and we take it very, very seriously."
The IOC failed to get a ban on Olympic gambling in Australia but did succeed in stopping betting in New South Wales state, where the Games will be held.
Not that this makes much difference. Australia has more than 50 sports betting agencies taking bets over the phone or on the Internet.
"We're just a mouse click away," said Gerard Daffy, the betting manager of Centrebet, Australia's biggest sports betting agency.
Centrebet is gearing up for a hectic two weeks of Olympic punting with up to 80 operators working 24 hours a day processing wagers.
"To be honest, I don't think we'll cope. It's going to be very, very busy," Daffy said. "We're getting calls every minute of the day from people all around the world and it's pretty obvious that people want to bet on the Olympics."
Centrebet is offering prices on the results of all 28 Olympic sports, including results of preliminary matches and finals. It is also offering odds on the final medals table and on how many medals a country will win.
The Alice Springs-based agency has already taken more than A$250,000 (US$140,000) in bets. Soccer has attracted the most wagers followed closely by handball. Synchronised swimming is the only sport not to have attracted a single wager.
The biggest bet so far is $6,000 on Maurice Greene to win the men's 100 metres at odds of 15-8 on, made by a businessman in Finland. A Sydney man has laid $3,000 on Italy to beat Australia in the opening match of the men's soccer tournament.
Despite the amount of money being waged, Daffy said he doubted whether the bookmakers would come out in front.
"The problem is that most of the favourites are pretty clear-cut in the Olympics. The odds might be short but the big punters know it's still better than bank interest."
Predictably, the U.S. "Dream Team" are the shortest-priced favourites of all, listed at the prohibitive odds of 25-1 on, meaning you have to bet $25 to win $1.
Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is 20-1 on to win gold in the 400 metres freestyle. The longest price on offer is 1000-1 for Australia's women's handball team although bigger odds are available on request.
"We don't really know a lot about some of these sports so we're flying in the dark a bit," Daffy said. "We're at a disadvantage to people on the inside and I'm really quite surprised they're (the IOC) letting athletes and officials bet.
"But we're old hands at this. We have morale obligations and we won't be accepting anything that exposes us too much."
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