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Sydney under the Olympics

The Olympics start today: For the past two weeks Sydney has been gripped with Olympic Fever, steadily building up to today's level... There's some kind of tense, crazy energy in the city.

14 Sep 2000

The Olympics start today: For the past two weeks Sydney has been gripped with Olympic Fever, steadily building up to today's level... There's some kind of tense, crazy energy in the city.

We've had a week of dry heat and blazing sun. Yesterday it changed. Wierd humidity, smog coming down, people coming in. Don't even thing about trying to catch a train.

Estimates are of up to two million extra people coming in to the city. So over ten days or so before the games, that's 200,000 coming into the airport and via highway per day.

This morning it feels like the calm before the storm, but last night half a million people or more turned out in the city center to see the torch arrive and be run through the city. There were giant video screens everywhere showing video relays, free concerts by namless bland performers, police on every corner.

The Sydney police are something else... very Australian. There are four or five different types; Standard Issue Beat cops, Bicycle cops who look like couriers with guns, Horse cops in big yellow jackets, Summer cops who look like gym instructors with blue bike shorts and guns, and hardcore cops, who look the coolest with blue overalls and chunky boots.

Nowhere else have I seen cops walking in to shops and buying food - I see this all the time, in the supermarket, at cafes or kebab shops. They walk in, get some food and back on to the beat.

Sydney has of course become security hell. Going in to work has become like getting through customs. I work in the city center, town hall house, which is of course a bomb target for everyone from Islamic Terrorists to the S11 World Economic Forum Protestors.

First we have to walk through a metal detector, and run our bags through an XRay machine, show photo ID to security, swipe the same ID to make the lift go to our floor, then swipe again to get in to the office. Plus there are video cameras on every available mountpoint. All mail gets the same security routine, and we have a bomb threat checklist just in case somone asks to be put through to us to deliver a threat.

The city partied last night, but tonight is when it'll really happen. Opening ceremony, fireworks from beyond, searchlights on every building in the city and way way more. Mumu land wil have nothing on this...