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Saturday, September 23, 2000
Transport system on edge, official admits

 SYDNEY (AP) -- The transit system bringing fans to and from the Olympics may be near capacity and highways could be headed for gridlock during the women's marathon.

 Officials said Saturday (Friday night EDT) that record attendance of nearly 400,000 fans at Olympic Park sparked fears that the transportation system is operating "right on the edge."

 Drawn by the opening of track and field competition, crowds poured into Olympic Park on Friday, nearly doubling the previous attendance record of 204,000 on Sept. 20. Another big crowd filled the stadiums Saturday.

 "The transport system is right on the edge in bringing people to and from the sites," Olympic transportation manager Paul Willoughby said.

 Of the 400,000 that came Friday, 72 percent arrived by rail and the rest by bus. Access to venues at the park, where most of the sports are staged, is almost impossible by private vehicles.

 Willoughby said that "significant transport disruption" was expected in Sydney for about 61/2 hours as the women's marathon is held along city streets Sunday (Saturday night EDT).

 "I think we are now at the critical stage of the games," said Francois Carrard, director general of the International Olympic Committee, noting that huge crowds would strain facilities in coming days.

 Carrard praised the smooth running of the transportation system, which earlier came in for criticism.

 While organizers are nervous, caterers were happy. Turnover in food and beverage sales Friday was reportedly up 25 percent.

 Besides track, being held in 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium, other events at Olympic Park include tennis, field hockey, basketball, baseball, handball and volleyball.

 The crowds are expected to continue through next week, with the exception of Tuesday, a rest day for track.

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