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Sunday, September 10, 2000

Someone in Sydney 100,000th across line

 The flag-decorated 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium in Sydney is being coiffured like a bride on her wedding day.

 The four Olympic pools are being tested for percentage of chlorine, rather than for e-coli.

 In short, Olympic facilities in this lovely city are getting their nails manicured, feet pedicured and the town itself is getting a facelift. Except for the traffic.

 Sydney is ready to welcome the athletes of the world for what promises to be one of the best-organized Olympic Games in history, hopefully without doping scandals.

 Some 10,000 plus athletes will rub shoulders in the Olympic Village, or nearby hotels -- depending on the sport and the wealth of the athletes.

 One of them will be the 100,000th athlete participating in the Games of the Modern Olympiads. Who would have figured that out, you may ask? Certainly not this chronicler.

 The man who undertook the task is 83-year-old Wolf Lyberg, a former journalist; press chief of the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France; chef de mission; secretary general of a national Olympic committee and statistical expert of the International Olympic Committee. His assignment was to compile the summary of participants in Olympic Games.

 "How come they asked you to do the job?" Lyberg was queried by friends. "Don't they have computers in the IOC to do all that?"

 The man who followed Olympic Games since age 10, realized that it was important not only to add up the names of accredited athletes, but figure out who were starters in the various events and separate them from those who were only part of their respective teams.

 "You may not know that the IOC pays a certain sum for each athlete to participate in the Games," wrote Lyberg in the Flame, the official organ of the World Olympians Association. "I think that this sum for Sydney is $1,200 US per athlete. But the IOC pays only for athletes who actively take part in the Games.

 "But who qualifies as an Olympian, you may ask? Let's presume that you are travelling with your team as a nominated athlete, but it just happens that you don't participate, or start. You are then not considered an Olympic athlete. You, or your national Olympic committee is not entitled to receive payment."

 Taking all this into consideration, with an expected arrival of 10,000 athletes (starters), one of them will be crowned as the 100,000th Olympic athlete.

 According to Lyberg's statistics, 79,697 male athletes have participated in previous Summer Games. Track and field introduced 15,517, followed by swimming (6,950) and rowing (5,871), while 14,125 female athletes took part, again with track and field in the lead (3,583), followed by swimming (2,855) and gymnastics (1,301.)

 A total of 13,235 male athletes entered the Winter Olympics with 2,863 being hockey players, followed by 2,777 nordic skiers and 2,053 alpine skiers. Only 2,911 women competed in the Winter Games, with alpine skiers leading the way with 711, followed by figure skaters (644) and nordic skiers (483).

 This adds up to a total of 93,410 athletes, of which 16,945 are women. In other words, Sydney should pass the 100,000 mark, an appropriate achievement for the millennium.