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Dawn Fraser
"The lighting of the flame is the greatest thing to happen at the opening ceremony."
 real 14k

The BBC's Neil Bennett
reports from Sydney
 real 56k

Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Sydney witnesses torch arrival
Pat Rafter
Rafter holds aloft the flame at Sydney Opera House
Hundreds of thousands of people flooded into Sydney's city centre on Thursday as the Olympic torch weaved its way through some of the nation's prime locations.

Almost four months after it was lit in Greece, the flame entered the central business district in the early evening marking the official start of celebrations in the Olympic city.

The 99th day of its 100-day journey around Australia took the symbol of the Games through Sydney's picturesque eastern suburbs and finally to Town Hall.

Along the way it lit the sails of the Opera House and the Olympic rings suspended from the Harbour Bridge - two of the world's most recognisable landmarks.

Torchbearers

  Olympic facts
Number of competing countries: 200
Number of athletes: 10,200
Number of sports: 28
Number of events: 297
Number of venues: 36
Games budget: 1b
Revenue from sponsorships, licensing and royalties: 320m
Revenue from television rights: 380m

Among the torchbearers were Australian tennis star Pat Rafter, singer Olivia Newton-John, Prince Albert of Monaco, Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh and champion golfer Karrie Webb.

After a cauldron was lit at Town Hall, six Olympic Live Sites across the city were opened to the public, providing 18 days and nights of free entertainment.

It is still not known who will use the torch to light the Olympic flame itself.

Over the next fortnight more than 3.7 billion, out of a world population of 3.9 billion, are expected to have watched some part of the Olympics on television - with over 700 cameras used by 180 broadcasting organisations.

The Australian Tourist Board predict that 22 million visitors will flock to Sydney bringing in more than 30bn in revenue over the next four years.

'Sydney is ready'

President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, announced defiantly that "Sydney is ready".

Juan Antonio Samaranch
Samaranch is confident

Samaranch faced a barrage of questioning regarding the recent drugs scandals and also the criminal activity involving IOC members and the 2002 Salt Lake City bid at a news conference on the eve of the Games.

The president, who will retire from his position following the Sydney Olympics, was more willing to discuss what he believes will be a very successful Games.

"The IOC is very much satisfied and confident that arrangements are in place for a very highly successful games," said Samaranch.


The IOC is very much satisfied and confident that arrangements are in place for a very highly successful games
  IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch

"The enthusiasm of the people is outstanding. The weather should be fine."

"Sydney is very different from Atlanta. The look of the games is fantastic, with banners and so on. But wait until 1 October to know my impression of the games."

He also stated that he was inviting Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser to sit alongside him at Friday's opening ceremony - ruling Fraser out for the role of final torch-bearer.

"I won't be able to do an 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie'," said Fraser.

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See also:

14 Sep 00 |  Photo Gallery
Sydney's Olympic flame - in pictures
10 Sep 00 |  Olympics2000
New attack on flame
10 Sep 00 |  Olympics2000
In search of a leading light
25 Aug 00 |  Olympics2000
Second attack on Olympic flame
27 Jun 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Olympic flame goes underwater
08 Jun 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Olympic torch starts final journey
14 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia steps up Olympic security
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