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September 15, 2000
Net result: The Web's the winnerMarie McInerney
The Surf Shop is all the rage in the Olympic athletes village -- and not just for competitors in the Sydney Games which open on Friday.
At the last official count, athletes had attracted 66,312 "fanmails" -- adoring e-mail messages -- from around the world, more than half from admirers and wellwishers in Australia.
"Go, go, go, go Aussie go! Win gold, gold and more gold!" implored one message from Jacinta.
Host nation Australia is getting the most fanmail in the village, now home to more than 10,000 athletes and officials, followed by the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Britain.
Surf Shop staff couldn't provide individual breakdowns for other countries, but the Australians receiving the most mail were predictable -- swimming's Ian Thorpe and Susie O'Neil, track star Cathy Freeman and tennis hero Pat Rafter.
Altogether 1,730 athletes have designed and published their own internet home pages at the cafe, with many lining up to brand their page on personalised t-shirts.
"We have a template and they can put in their favourite TV shows or music or food, along with their photos and personal details," said cafe spokeswoman Alexandra Kelly.
"A lot of guys, and it does tend to be the guys, come in and have a glam photo from Inside Sport or something like that, which they put onto the page," she said, with a laugh.
But sports fans worried the athletes aren't spending enough time training will be relieved to know the village dance club isn't exactly pulling in the crowds.
"It's not good for the legs, especially for a cyclist," Italy's Marco Villa told the village journal.
Josee Marsolais, from Canada's water polo team, agreed. "It will be fun once competition is done," he said.
"We're just trying to find something to do," U.S hurdler Melissa Morrison told Reuters as about 40 athletes queued for terminals at the Surf Shack cyber-cafe in the athletes village.
Like many others, she won't be competing for a few more days, so she was out shopping for candles and flowers to bring a touch of home to her quarters in the village.
"We don't want to sit in our rooms all day, we don't want to stay in the cafeteria because we'd eat ourselves to death," Morrison explained. "It's just something to do."
While cyber-space and video games are easily the most popular, athletes can fill up time elsewhere in the village, learning English or sprucing up ahead of the opening ceremony.
"The men are going crazy," village hairdresser Kathy Liliopoulis reported. "A Kenyan boxer had his hair and goatee dyed blonde like a gold medal."
"We've also had a green mohawk, a blonde athlete wanting the tips of her locks dyed blue, letters carved into the back of people's head and even a couple of dyed moustaches."
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