Olympic Games: Didgeridoo sounds out for Sydney

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The Independent Online
IT IS still two years away, but yesterday Australia started the countdown to the 2000 Olympic Games with didgeridoos and socks in Sydney while calling for the jailing of drug pushers in Seoul.

An aborigine, Sean Choolbura, was making a noise at the Tidal Cascades fountain in Darling Harbour as children ran around nearby sporting gold and green socks which the Australian public are being urged to buy to support their athletes financially as they train for the Games which begin on 15 September, 2000.

Construction of the Games' venues is well advanced with 20 of the 29 sites already completed and the remainder, including the massive Sydney Olympic Park, ahead of schedule.

Drugs, however, continue to concern Australia, and they maintained their tough stand on the problem at the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Seoul.

The Australians want to jail drug pushers who target athletes, rather than the competitors themselves and the Australian Olympic Committee has asked its government to enact criminal penalties for trafficking in drugs like steroids.

"If an athlete comes into Australia with loads of drugs, he can be prosecuted," Australia's leading IOC official, Kevan Gosper, said. "But we don't want to give the impression that when athletes come to the Games that they have to be worried about the police. That's not the case."

A report by the AOC had recommended that "penalties for personal possession and use be increased to those which apply to narcotics".

"We want to criminalise drug pushers and suppliers, not athletes," Gosper said.

Francois Carrard, the IOC director general, said the IOC agreed with Australia's position as long as it applied to pushers and not users.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC official responsible for coordinating the organisation of the 2000 Games, added: "We don't want the police in the stadium stands."