Publish date:

Making A Splash From moves, masks and gis to East Timorese, things never before seen at the Games will be on view in Sydney

Double Tower Lift

With Russia, Japan and Canada all threatening to sink the U.S.
synchronized swimming team, the defending Olympic champion has
been experimenting with new choreography. The American squad's
most dazzling innovation is the double tower lift, in which two
swimmers, perched one on top of the other, are hoisted out of
the water by an underwater support beam made up of six
teammates--whose feet, of course, aren't allowed to touch the
bottom of the pool.

The Clinch

Greco-Roman wrestling matches aren't always filled with
fireworks. To add spark to matches that are scoreless after the
first of two three-minute periods, a clinch will be used to start
the second period. (If the match is not scoreless, the second
period begins in traditional fashion, with the wrestlers standing
a few feet apart.) The wrestlers will grasp each other in a bear
hug, locking their hands, and stay in that position until one
wrestler has scored a point by throwing the other or making him
let go.

Millie, Syd and Ollie

At least they're based on real animals: (from left) Millie is an
echidna, or spiny anteater, Syd a duck-billed platypus and Ollie
a kookaburra. Designed by the Sydney artist Matthew Hatton and
spun into millions of dollars' worth of merchandise, the Games'
three mascots are considerably more appealing than Atlanta's
insipid cartoon character, Izzy. Still, you can bet you'll be
more than ready to say s'long, mate, to them by Oct. 1, when the
Games end.

Motorcycle Madness

Male cyclists are revving up for one of the Olympics' most
incongruous new events, the Keirin race. In this high-octane
hybrid, as many as seven riders jockey for position behind a pace
motorcycle that accelerates up to 28 mph over 5 1/2 laps of the
steeply banked 250-meter track. The motorcycle then pulls off the
track with 625 meters to go, freeing the cyclists for a mad dash
to the finish. The Keirin is a popular betting event in Japan,
but the favorite in Sydney will be an American, Marty Nothstein
(left, in blue).


They may be the most revolutionary athletic gear since
fiberglass vaulting poles. Full-body, ultraslick swimsuits made
by several companies, most notably Adidas and Speedo, have
shaved a second or more off some swimmers' times, contributing
to a spate of world records in the past year. The suits are made
of synthetic materials--the Adidas models are Teflon-coated--and
purportedly have less drag in the water than even the most
smoothly shaved human skin. Speedo likens its suits to
sharkskin. The outfits may not create waves, but they have
certainly raised concerns: How many Third World swimmers can
afford the suits, which cost between $130 and $250? Are records
set by swimmers in these suits tainted? Just a couple of things
to consider as you watch the human sharks streak up and down the


In keeping with the Sydney Games' pledge to be environmentally
responsible, some 400 buggies powered by solar-generated
electricity will ferry athletes, officials and VIPs among the 32
venues. These Olymobiles, built by British manufacturer
Frazer-Nash, come in a variety of designs and colors, including
the Windsor, which looks like a Model T, and the VW Beetle-like
Solar Baby (above).

Wooden Bats

Baseball has been a medal sport since 1992--and a metal sport too.
The ping of aluminum won't be heard in Sydney, however; metal
bats were banned from international competition in 1999 to suit
the wood-wielding pro players who'll be in the Olympics for the
first time this year. One likely result: fewer home runs than the
'96 average of nearly four a game.


Italian for free, the libero position was introduced in
international volleyball in 1998 to help create longer, more
exciting rallies. Distinguished from his or her teammates by a
different colored jersey (that's the U.S.'s Greg Romano at
right), the libero may come into the game for any other player
any number of times (other substitutions are limited) and may
play only in the back row. The libero doesn't serve, attack or
block, but instead makes diving saves and point-guard-like setup
passes, and invigorates the team by playing, as the Italians
might put it, con brio.

No-Lace Wrestling Shoes

It was one of the sport's most common ploys: winded athletes
delaying a match by attending to a ostensibly untied shoelace.
In these Olympics, wrestlers won't be able to pull that trick;
they will have to wear shoes on which the laces are wrapped with
tape. But, hey, what happens if a tired grappler feels the tape
coming loose?

Clear Face Masks

In their white mummy gear and grill masks, fencers have always
looked like creatures from a horror film. No more. Transparent
face masks are now mandatory in international fencing, giving
fans some faces to watch. The mummy look may soon vanish too:
Colored uniforms will be allowed in Sydney.

Judo in Blue

In past Olympics, judo competitors wore white uniforms, or
judo-gi, with only a red sash around one of the players to allow
onlookers to distinguish between the contestants. The collision
of white often made it difficult for judges to keep score when
the action was fast, but a few national governing bodies--most
adamantly that of Japan, which claimed (among other arguments)
that white was a symbol of purity vital to the sport--resisted
efforts to allow other colors in the international arena. A
majority of the federations, however, concluded last year that
contrasting white and blue uniforms would make for easier scoring
and more viewer-friendly TV. Tradition bowed out.

East Timorese Athletes

Ruled by Portugal for more than 400 years and by Indonesia for
24, East Timor gained independence in August 1999 through a
national referendum. After the vote, hundreds of East Timorese
were killed by pro-Indonesia militias, and nearly 200,000 people
fled into West Timor. Thanks to an Australia-led campaign, four
East Timorese athletes--including boxer Victor Ramos (left)--will
compete in Sydney. Since East Timor is under U.N. administration,
the athletes will march under the Olympic flag as "individual
athletes," not as representatives of their fledgling country.

Throwback Bikes

Track cycling has gone retro. SuperBikes, those high-tech,
lightweight, $30,000 wonders developed for the Atlanta Games as
part of a multimillion-dollar program to end the U.S.'s 12-year
gold medal drought in track cycling, have been replaced by more
traditional-looking, cheaper ($4,000 to $5,000) bicycles (above).
To encourage Olympic participation among poorer nations, the
International Cycling Federation has outlawed much of the
SuperBike technology, including aerodynamically refined frames
that had no top tube. This could be a blessing in disguise for
U.S. riders: Aboard those SuperBikes four years ago, they didn't
win one track event.