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September 18, 2000
Pool splash whets appetite
Chinese weightlifter Yang Xia launched a world record rout at the Olympics on Monday, in an ideal curtain-raiser to the swimming pool showdown between Australian hero Ian Thorpe and his great Dutch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband.
Thorpe had staked an early claim to be the athlete of the Games with two gold medals and two world records on the opening day of swimming.
But he was robbed of his 200m freestyle record by van den Hoogenband in the semi-finals in a manner that left no doubt the mark would be have to be further reduced to win Monday night's final, billed as the race that will bring Australia to a standstill.
But the Australian bourse ground to a halt much earlier as sports-mad brokers deserted their desks and headed to Olympic venues.
Ticket sales have soared to an Olympic record, with more than 85 per cent sold, surging on the back of Thorpe's opening night success.
Into the third-day of Olympic competition in Sydney and 18 world records have been broken, including eight in the high-tech swimming pool and eight in weightlifting -- five of those in the women's 53kg class on Monday.
Taiwan's Li Feng-ying, eventual silver medallist, briefly held the snatch record before losing it to Yang in the next lift.
The Chinese then went on to break the clean and jerk record twice and set a new world record total.
The 53kg weightlifting class included Romanian Mariora Munteane, who finished eighth, after her federation paid a 50,000 dollar fine to have her reinstated after the IOC had said that was not possible.
Romania's entire weightlifting team had been expelled after three failed drug tests, but the four untainted members were recalled when the fine was paid.
The IOC's medical commission director general Patrick Schamasch had earlier insisted there was no question the Romanians could buy their way back into the Games.
"A fine can never, never replace a sanction. All the weightlifters have to leave the village," he said.
The growing list of athletes expelled from the Games for failing drug tests swelled on Monday to include high-profile German runner Dieter Baumann, Norwegian weightlifter Stian Grimseth and Iranian boxer Anosheravan Nourian.
Athletics government body banned Baumann, the 1992 5000m gold medal winner, for two years following two positive dope tests.
Baumann had claimed his toothpaste had been spiked but athletics' controlling body rejected his appeal.
The athlete's lawyer Michael Lehner indicated his client would now take the matter to the Sports Arbitration Tribunal in a last-ditch bid to compete in Sydney.
The United States athletics team's had its own internal dispute as the first 4x100m relay practice went ahead without the world's fastest man, Maurice Greene.
Greene took no part in the baton-changing practice, in a row believed to involve his management company exerting pressure over the make up of the team.
"It gets ugly every four years whenever there's someone who isn't selected," said US relay coach Johnny Moon, adding the team will be picked on Monday itself.
For overall Games supremacy, the United States found themselves pressed by France after 32 finals, in which 35 countries had taken medals, both with four golds each. The United States has 11 medals over all, one more than the French.
There were no medals for bus drivers as transport problems returned to the Games. Boxing and softball competitions were both delayed because of traffic jams and lost drivers.
Lax security at the athletes' village was also exposed with champion Australian swimmer Grant Hackett briefly denied entry because too many fake Hacketts were inside.
Hackett, the 1500m favourite and a well-known face in Australia, was taken aside by security officials and made to prove his identity because other 'Grant Hacketts' were already in the village after showing security staff fake accreditations bearing his name and photo.
Weather forecasters, meanwhile, are predicting showers will spoil the Olympic party later this week.
"It's starting to get more cloudy and there's a chance of a few showers on Thursday," said forecaster Graeme King.
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