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Saturday, September 16, 2000
U.S. visitors get more for their money as Australian dollar sinks

 SYDNEY (AP) -- With the Olympics in Sydney, the world seems interested in all things Australian -- with the exception of its ailing currency.

 Overnight, as billions of viewers around the world tuned in to the Olympic opening ceremony, traders in New York were again turning their backs on the beleaguered Aussie buck, sending it crashing to the latest in a string of record lows against the U.S. dollar -- 54.40 cents.

 Just a few months ago, the Aussie dollar bought nearly 60 cents.

 So while Australians are griping about the price of a pie --their sporting snack of choice -- at the Olympics, to Americans, Sydney has turned into one big bargain basement.

 "Yes, we're feeling it, this place is a bargain," said Boston tourist Bill DeLuca, as he lined up with his wife, Kay, and other shoppers in the main merchandising store at the Olympic site. "Ticket prices are high, but food, travel, everything else is cheap."

 After trying unsuccessfully Friday to talk up the Australian dollar by pointing to the nation's healthy economy, Prime Minister John Howard said Saturday the Olympics should give the currency a boost.

 Economists believe that one of the reasons the Australian dollar is suffering is a global perception that Australia has an old-style economy.

 On Friday, Howard attended a dinner organized by computer giant IBM and took the opportunity to emphasize to foreign business leaders that Australia's economy has modernized in recent years.

 "Some of them hadn't been to Australia before, most of them had, but if their first impressions were any guide they were overwhelmed by the place so that will help," Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

 The Olympic Superstore was playing up the weak dollar for all it was worth.

 Kenny, an entertainer hired by the store to amuse the crowds waiting in line, yelled into a microphone: "Folks, you'll need to change money at the ATMs into Australian dollars, and you people from overseas will love it: Australian dollars are like Monopoly money at the moment."

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