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Tuesday, September 18, 2000

Wows, growls and 'Oye'

Jonesy on the view from Sydney ... so far


 SYDNEY, U.S. - OK. That's a stretch. But when it comes to transportation and television, there are moments here when this is Atlanta. OK. That's a stretch, too. Even in transportation and television, a bad day here was a good day in Atlanta.

 For a while there it looked like Sydney was going to throw a perfect Games.

 It's not working out that way.

 Make no mistake. Sydney is wowing the world here.

 But every day there's a transportation mess somewhere at these Olympics. Not a Gameswide mess. But a mess.

 We saw a lot of that coming. The two big questions going into these Olympics were weather and transportation.

 SPECTACULAR WEATHER

 The weather has been spectacular. After a cool night warmed up by an awesome opening ceremonies it's been not-a-cloud-in-the-sky drop-dead-gorgeous day after day of low humidity. Basic Alberta July and August weather.

 Nobody saw the television thing coming.

 Australian television, which had a wonderful reputation before these Olympics, has turned into the same ignore-the-rest-of-the-world Aussie-Aussie-Aussie Oye-Oye-Oye show which turned the world off when NBC and ABC were US, US, US, all the way at the two previous Olympics on U.S. soil.

 When it comes to transportation, we're still waiting for the first day when there will be 500,000 people in Sydney Olympic Park, where 15 venues come into play.

 That'll be tested every day starting Friday when track and field kicks in. yesterday the system carried 1.6 million in and out of the place but the events were well staggered.

 But with 110,000 in there for the opening ceremony it took this traveller almost two hours in a lineup to get on the train which brings most people to and from the place.

 Yesterday more than 5,000 fans found themselves in gridlock trying to get to equestrian events on the M4 freeway. The congestion forced a 45-minute delay in a women's softball game between China and Japan, not because they decided to wait for the crowd to get there but because China couldn't get there. The Chinese blamed their loss on the transportation.

 But whoa. All of the above makes me sound like a nattering nabob of negativity.

 I love these Olympics.

 I love the way the Australian people are handling themselves when it comes to dealing with the transportation. You don't see anybody throwing hissy fits. They're having a ball with these Olympics and creating unforgettable days and nights celebrating at places like Darling Harbour.

 Remember all those reports about how ticket sales were slow in Sydney?

 On Sunday, Sydney became the all-time Olympic champion at attendance. With the biggest single-day ticket sale since they went on sale, Sydney passed Barcelona in percentage of tickets sold. Before these Games are over they'll end up in the 90 per cent range. And that's with archery, shooting, wrestling, judo and such sports and on the program.

 I love the volunteers.

 No matter how zombie-like or sleep-deprived or frustrated by North American deadlines you might be, they never fail to make your day.

 They're the greatest volunteers I've ever seen. There are 47,000 of them and they're the smilingest, friendliest, go-out-of-their-way-to-make-your-day group you'll meet.

 They come from all over Australia and every last one of them had to attend compulsory training before the Games.

 I love my next assignment. It usually means a new facility. And these facilities here are so spectacular, going to a new one every day is like Christmas. You get to open another gift.

 I've had this thing when it comes to covering Olympics over the years. I only go to closing ceremonies of Games I love.

 FLOODED WITH HATE E-MAIL

 When I explained this peculiar perversion and informed Sun Media readers that I wasn't going to the closers in Atlanta, I was flooded with hate e-mail.

 How could you not go?

 There are people who would give almost anything to go to an Olympics closing ceremonies and sit at a tabled seat 15 rows from the stadium floor with your own personal TV set so you can see the feed they're sending the world.

 Sorry. Closing ceremonies celebrate the experience.

 I didn't go in Atlanta. I didn't go in Albertville either.

 Same deal.

 Anyway, despite the transportation and the television, no worries here, mate.

 I've already made up my mind. I'm going. I love these Olympics.