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Thursday, September 7, 2000

What does SI know that the rest of us don't?

  SYDNEY -- The guys at Sports Illustrated either have incredible inside knowledge or they're delirious.

 It's probably the latter.

 In his "fearless" medal forecast, SI's Brian Cazeneuve selected Canada's Bruny Surin to win the silver medal in the 100 metres, behind American star Maurice Greene.

 Surin is a great guy who hasn't received his proper due from the Canadian media. However, the Montreal athlete is an absolute long shot to even qualify for the 100-metre final at these Games -- as is Olympic champion Donovan Bailey.

 Surin's best time in the 100 this season is a mediocre 10.08 seconds -- 22nd best in the world. Bailey's best time is 9.98 -- seventh in the world. Both of their seasonal best marks were recorded early in the season, prior to hamstring problems, and both are in their early 30s.

 Either the two are playing a world-class game of possum or they're just past it. And that does not bode well for the Canadian relay team.

 FIVE-RING CIRCUS: Give the International Amateur Boxing Federation credit for knowing its audience. In the never-ending war to wipe out bribery in Olympic boxing, the IABA has offered to pay all fight judges double any amount offered in a bribe. In other words, if a judge comes forward with proof that some shady guy offered him $100,000 to score a fight a certain way, the IABA will cough up $200,000 for him to blow the whistle. When this news was presented at a meeting of judges recently in Kazakhstan, excited officials responded with a heartfelt standing ovation ... And talk about not knowing your audience. Four working girls recently sneaked into the media village and offered their services for $500 a pop -- with no receipts! That kind of scratch would keep your average sports writer in beer and fries for about six months ... ... Note to banned show jumper Eric Lamaze: Just say no. At least before the Olympics begin.

 VILLAGE PEOPLE: The news out of the athletes' village so far is good. Accommodations are said to be comfortable and the perks are even better, including a cappuccino bar, personalized gifts from local school kids, free facials and massages, a karaoke bar and 51 condoms. As one rower sees it, that's three a day, or six if used for a rendezvous with another athlete. Isn't youth a wonderful thing? ... Now playing in the village cinema: Titanic, with Hebrew subtitles.

 WHAT DAY IS IT? Heard on the intercom on United Airlines flight 863, upon touchdown at Sydney International Airport, 141/2 hours after taking off on Friday night from San Francisco: "Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Sydney, where the local time is 7:50 a.m., on, um, uh, Sunday" ... The locals have a new word for freeloader: "Juan," as in IOC poobah Juan Antonio Samaranch ... Australian judo guy Adrian Robertson was asked if sex the night before an event is a good thing: "If I can get it, it's great." ... Culture shock: A Canadian journalist, who was detained at Sydney International, was told by an Australian customs official to, "Go stand over there with those dark people," meaning a group of athletes from Africa.

 STAY TUNED: Olympic stories to keep your eye on during the next three weeks:

 - Will Australian runner Cathy Freeman, who has the double weight of competing in front of her adoring compatriots and for the glory of her Aboriginal people, fold or soar under the incredible pressure? Freeman's image is everywhere in this town. It would be like if Toronto was host of the Games and Bailey was favoured to win in the 100-metre final at the SkyDome;

 - Russian freestyle wrestler Alexander Karelin (130 kilograms) hasn't lost an international match -- absolutely amazing;

 - North Vancouver's Carol Montgomery is competing in two sports, the triathlon and the 10,000 metres. And unlike some of the Canadian athletes, she isn't here as a tourist;

 - Diabetic British rower Steven Redgrave is going for a gold medal in his fifth consecutive Games;

 - Just as the sprints are dominated by Americans and boxing by Cubans, weightlifting appears to be the domain of the Bulgarians. In fact, in the 62-kilogram class, all three medallists could be Bulgarian-born, including the great Naim (the Pocket Hercules) Suleymanoglu of Turkey and Nikolaj Pesalov of Croatia;

 - U.S. track and field queen Marion Jones is going for five gold medals.