Kookaboora apt emblem for Olympics that might well be called the Kookey Games
By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
SYDNEY -- The kookaburra is the bird emblem of New South Wales, the Australian state in which the 2000 Olympics, which start Friday, will be held. How fitting.
Call these the Kooky Games.
A terrorist plot uncovered last month in New Zealand, suggesting idiots intended to blow up a nuclear research facility in the southern suburbs, has merely been the tip of the iceberg of despicable developments.
A disillusioned Aussie tried to douse the Olympic torch during its relay around the country.
Aborigines are protesting at the international airport, trying to enlighten foreigners of grievances against government for past injustices.
Immigration officials made their first seizure of banned drugs at the Olympics last Thursday when they caught a Uzbekistan wrestling trainer carrying vials of performance-enhancing human growth hormone or HGH. At least 15 vials were seized from Sergei Voymov's baggage.
That was a day after seven vials of suspect liquid arrived from China hidden inside a teddy bear.
Dick Pound, the IOC vice-president in charge of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said the seizure highlighted the success of heightened co-operation between the IOC and national governments in efforts to crack down on drug use in sport.
"You have to be nuts with all the publicity on cracking down on drug use in the Games to come whistling through customs with HGH," said Pound.
Apparently, Australia is full of nuts this week.
Cheaters and tricksters abound.
"I still think, unfortunately, the cheaters -- the people using performance-enhancing drugs -- are way ahead of the tests that are now in place," said Richard Quick, the U.S. swim team's head women's coach.
HGH is popular with athletes for muscle building. It is favoured by those competing in sports where explosive power is required, and it is not detectable in any current anti-doping tests. The fact that overuse can cause serious health problems down the road seems to have escaped some athletes.
Pound's puppies have been testing athletes for a while. They don't wait until events are over anymore. They try to nab the nefarious before the medals are doled out.
Some never made it to Sydney. Hammer thrower Robin Lyons was removed from Canada's team after testing positive for steroids. Canadian equestrian rider Eric Lamaze was kicked out after a test revealed proof of cocaine use. It was his second offence.
In Taiwan, female weightlifters Chen Jui-lien and Wu Mei-yi were barred from the Games after positive doping tests.
Olympic individual pursuit champion Andrea Collinelli and teammate Mauro Trentini were kicked off Italy's team for failing doping tests administered during their country's nationals in July.
The Chinese team dropped 27 team members and 13 officials for suspected drug use.
Meanwhile, a trio of unofficial Games mascots say they'll publicly humiliate any athletes who fail doping tests. Harry Hypodermic Needle, a large round pink pill carrying weights, and Uri Urine, a yellow urine bottle and cap, are poised to ridicule.
Dave (Shark Man) Baxter says he'll continue to cut shark nets in the ocean during the Games to further his protest that they shouldn't be used because they give swimmers a false sense of security because since don't totally enclose beaches.
Romanian equestrian hopeful Viorel Bobau never got close to Australia. He was stopped at the Hungarian-Austrian border and accused of stealing his horse by its Austrian owners.
The Aussies shook up the International Olympic Committee by refusing to allow Hong Kong basketball official Carl Ching and Uzbekistan boxing official Gafir Rakhimov into the country for "the safety and security of the Australian community." Seems the international police agency Interpol had extensive files on the two.
The shock was perhaps too great for protesting IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who at a reception during the weekend misspelled the city as Sidney on a poster.
Cab drivers in the city are irate over traffic lane closures that allow Olympic buses to barrel along unimpeded.
Nigerian team officials have declined to take responsibility for having the body of runner Hyginus Anugo shipped home. Anugo was struck and killed while crossing a street last week. He was the fiance of track star Glory Alozie and was to have flown home days before his death. So, says the delegation, somebody else will have to take care of his remains.
A cyclist was nearly bitten by a snake while training the other day.
During a dress rehearsal of the opening ceremonies, fireworks set off a fire in a neighbouring lot.
A used car salesman standing in his suburban yard on his day off had this to say when asked if he'd be taking in any of the Olympic festivities: "I'd rather watch the cows graze."
Many tickets remain unsold.
Was that a kookaburra that just flew past?
Well, we can put all this in the past and hope that, when the Games begin Friday, the good news will far outweigh the bad.
The vast majority of the 10,400 competitors will win honestly. They will truly deserve their medals. There will be good stories to tell at last.