OLYMPIC GAMES: Redgrave can collect fifth gold

The Independent's correspondents give their predictions for what promises to be a momentous year

TICKETING SCANDALS and sponsorship wrangles may be clouding the world's current view of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney but, by the time the 27th Games of the modern era get underway in September, the host city is hoping that attention will be focused on performances which will make a happier impression on public opinion than their recent difficulties.

Britain, with just one gold medal to show for its efforts at the last Olympics in Atlanta, has laid careful plans to give its competitors the best opportunity of improving on that record by establishing a training camp on the Gold Coast, 500 miles north of the Games hub at Homebush.

It is from this northerly site that Britain hopes to prepare a core of medal contenders including the likes of swimmers such as James Hickman, the world short course 200m butterfly champion, and Paul Palmer, who took a silver medal in the 400m freestyle at the 1996 Games.

Athletes, too, will prepare there on a track made to the exact specifications of that in the Olympic stadium. Iwan Thomas, Britain's 400m record holder, was among those who made use of the facilities in the autumn after recovering from an ankle injury.

Ben Ainsley, silver medallist in the Laser sailing class in Atlanta, looks capable of going one better this time around, while in triathlete Simon Lessing Britain has a world champion who can dominate his event.

The main point of interest for Britain is likely to be the large, unassuming figure of Steven Redgrave, winner of a rowing gold at the last four Olympics and seeking to join a historic elite by securing a fifth as part of the current world champion four.

The home nation will be determined to dominate in the swimming pool, with their giant wunderkind Ian Thorpe under pressure to deliver the titles his talent has promised in recent years.

The swimmers had better deliver for the Aussies as their prospects in track and field - which is likely to be dominated once again by America and Africa - look slim indeed.

Prediction: Redgrave to make it a golden five.

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