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Saturday, March 6, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Sydney Olympics sets its first record

The stadium was packed for a local rugby league match

The main stadium for the Sydney 2000 Olympics was given its first major try-out on Saturday when a crowd of more than 104,000 turned out for its unofficial opening.

Sports reporter Tory Blair: "The event went off without any major dramas"
And the first event chosen for the Homebush Bay stadium - a local rugby competition - broke a world record for attendance for at a rugby league match, and set a record for the biggest crowd at any sporting event in Sydney.

The local teams that played usually attract crowds of fewer than 20,000.

As well as the rugby, the crowd enjoyed a show of dancing and singing, and a spectacular laser light show and fireworks display.

"It was a great night for Sydney," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said. "This stadium is really impressive."

Olympic officials had been hoping for a smaller crowd for the stadium's first test, but were delighted with the way the venue handled the massive attendance.

"The facilities are good, it didn't seem particularly congested and, overall, 10 out of 10," one of them commented.

The stadium, to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies for next year's Olympics, as well as the athletics and soccer events, is the biggest in modern Olympic history with a capacity of 110,000.

Completed more than 18 months ahead of schedule, it cost $433.7m (US) to build, and could accommodate four jumbo jets side by side under the span of the main arch.

Although there were traffic jams for fans getting in and out of the stadium, the event went off without any major hitches.

The stadium will be officially opened on 12 June.

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