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September 12, 2000
Sydney rivals Spanish ArmadaPaul Majendie
Sydney Harbour is packed with the biggest flotilla of ships in its history, but high winds could play havoc with the Olympic sailing competition.
"The harbour is going to be busier than it has ever been in its history," said a waterways authority spokesman as the first giant liner docked in the heart of the Olympic capital.
The computer giant IBM has chartered the Crystal Harmony as a five-star hotel for the Games. Its VIP guests in the 480 luxury suites enjoy a stunning view of the Sydney Opera House.
Almost 6,000 passengers in nine cruise ships are being cosseted in splendour for the duration of the Millennium Games, the greatest sporting extravaganza on earth. Their hosts range from national Olympic committees to television broadcasters.
Sixty super yachts are also jostling for space amid the berths and up to 120,000 smaller boats are expected to take to the water. "We are preparing ourselves for at least triple the amount of normal traffic we have," the authority spokesman said.
The harbour makes the perfect photogenic backdrop for the hordes of television crews pouring into the Olympics, expected to attract a television audience of 3.5 billion people.
On the American NBC network's top-rated Today Show, presenter Katie Couric cuddled a distinctly uncomfortable-looking kangaroo and promised that the programme would get beyond the Australian stereotypes over the next three weeks.
"The people of Sydney will have to indulge us -- kangaroos may be cliche but they do outnumber people here two to one," she said.
Fellow presenter Matt Lauer interviewed Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan before climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The harbour has been hit by high winds over the past two weeks, posing big headaches for the Olympic yachting organisers.
Monday's practice sessions were abruptly ended when westerly winds gusting at up to 35 knots whipped up the waves.
"If we have the winds we have experienced during the past two weeks, there will be plenty of days lost during the Olympics. It will be too windy to race," said the Bureau of Meteorology's sailing forecaster Manfred Greitschus.
First to take the plunge at the weekend will be the Olympic triathlon competitors who are to swim across the harbour flanked by a team of divers equipped with electrical shark repellers.
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