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Sunday, June 4, 2000

Hylland mix of humour, hard work
When you talk of captains you may have the chief officer of the Titanic in mind. Or, perhaps, the skipper of a pirate ship with a patch over one eye and a peg leg. Then, of course, there's a handsome captain such as Maple Leafs' Mats Sundin.

But the team captain I'm going to talk about is a petite go-getter, a brunette with a great sense of humour and enormous work ethic. In short, she's the team captain of Canada's Olympic team for Sydney. Her name is Sue Hylland.

I spent about a half hour talking with her about the preparations for the mammoth task of arranging the Canadian team's setup at Macquarie University in Ryde and accommodation at the nearby Olympic Village. When she finished talking, I felt exhausted.

It's indeed difficult to fathom how this woman and her three partners -- chef de mission Diane Jones Konihowski, deputy chief Betty Derner-Norris and COA executive director of sports programming, Mark Lowry--are managing to overcome the taxing workload.

"It's part of my job," said Hylland. "I rely heavily on my associates, as well as on the feedback from athletes and officials, advice from the experienced, as well as on consultations. That's why we have about 100 cell phones for our leaders, coaches and key staff personnel. Communication is the key."

It may take more space than allocated here to describe everything Hylland is involved in. She and her staff have to prepare charts for every event, organize computer hookups, set up an athletes' lounge and are working on getting the CBC feed into the Olympic Village.

At last week's meetings in Toronto, they had to organize, among others, the departure of the cargo for Sydney. It will contain uniforms for all the athletes, coaches and staff, medical supplies, food, soft drinks and water.

"The Olympic Village setup is very important," Hylland says. "We have to get the accommodation list from each sport and assign them living quarters accordingly. We have to design our offices and inform everyone what adapters, converters and TV sets to use. We'll have computers available for athletes, so they can e-mail their loved ones and send messages to friends.

Hylland expects to have the accreditation cards back from Sydney in July and then hand them out to athletes, who'll get them validated on arrival at Sydney airport. This, of course, will be a huge task because the final team selection won't take place until August.

Human representatives are not the only ones Hylland's team has to be concerned with. There's the transportation of horses for the equestrian events, which will originate in New York.

There's kayaks and canoes to go, too.

Labatt beer and General Mills food will be shipped. Condoms will go with the medical supplies.

"Our efforts will be divided between operations inside and outside of the Olympic Village," Hylland explained. "We've created a video for team leaders which they can take back to their athletes now so competitors realize what they can expect on arrival at Sydney airport, what the Olympic Village is like and what the staging will be like at the Canadian Olympic House.

"All our outside operation will take place at Macquarie University, where we'll have team functions, receptions and athletes and coaches' appreciation nights. It's really pleasing that we'll have accommodation for 1,500-1,800 Canadians, so we can look after spouses, families, sponsors, friends and fans."

The city of Ryde, home to Macquarie University, has adopted Canada and can't do enough for the team.

To say thank you to the city of Ryde, the Canadian team will host a barbecue for 800 people before the closing of the Games.