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It’s almost that time again. Three short months from now, the flames will be lit, the cameras will start rolling, and the 2000 Olympic summer games will finally begin. And if the recent past is anything to go by, grumbling noises will soon be emanating from Down Under. Visitors to the late great Atlanta Olympics will fondly recall the difficulty of getting tickets, the high price of hotel accommodations (if you could get them in the first place), the erratic quality of transportation to and from the Olympic grounds, and the lack of anything to do when not at the games. Items one through three may yet be problematic — Olympic officials promise that they won’t be — but you can forget about being bored. This is Sydney, after all, where the natural setting is so grand that you might even want to forget the games and just go for the locale. Even the most die-hard sports enthusiasts will want to spend a couple of days enjoying Sydney’s other attractions, beginning with the scenic overview. While it’s traditional to view the harbor city and its famous opera house by boat or ferry, a better way to see the sights is to take a helicopter from Sydney Heli-Aust (Tel. (02) 9317 3402). The helicopters leave from Sydney’s domestic airport, which is less than 15 minutes from the center of the city. Passengers can design their own itinerary. Highlights you can choose from include an aerial view of a Bondi Beach surfing competition and a whole new perspective of the Olympic site. Another option — perfect for wannabe athletes — is to climb Sydney’s Harbor Bridge with BridgeClimb (Tel. (02) 8274 7777, www.bridgeclimb.com, 5 Cumberland Street). Climbers are given gray jumpsuits and connected to each other by safety harnesses, which makes them look a bit like members of a chain gang, as they make the 400-foot, 3-hour trip to the top. Having worked up an appetite while watching all those pole-vaulters and swimmers burn endless amounts of calories, food lovers will be rewarded by Sydney’s outstanding cuisine. For the city’s best Asian food, stop by Sailor’s Thai, located in the historic Rocks section of town (106 George Street, Tel. (02) 9251 2466). The restaurant’s innovative dishes include lychee salad, deep-fried bean curd stuffed with pork and crab meat, and the grilled fish with sweet fish sauce. A perfect way to end a meal is to have a bowl of green tea and coconut ice cream while admiring the historic building, which used to be a home for retired sailors. For beach dining, jump on a ferry to The Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral Beach, where the chef is so meticulous he even churns his own butter (The Esplanade, Balmoral, Tel. (02) 9968 1133). In addition to Sydney rock oysters and other treats from the sea, the Bather’s Pavilion offers diners the opportunity to taste stunningly fresh abalone, crispy pork ears, and black fungus salted jellyfish, all selections off the “Gourmet” menu. You get the picture: Sydney is definitely not Atlanta. Just check out the snazzy hotel accommodations. The recently renovated Regent is the official hotel of the Olympics, where, for a price, you can mingle with Olympic dignitaries (199 George Street, Tel. (02) 9238 0000). The Regent has outstanding service and a great new gym. After watching the Olympians run, swim, and grimace, guests can get a massage in a spa room that has its own private steam room and jacuzzi. For those who like smaller hotels, there’s the Observatory Hotel, on Observatory Hill (89 Kent Street, Tel. (02) 9256 2222). Swimmers love the place because they can do laps under a dark blue ceiling while looking at the hand painted constellations above. Serious enthusiasts will want to fly to the Hayman Island Resort in the Great Barrier Reef for a quick getaway from the city (Tel. (800) 075 175, www.hayman.com.au). Many of the resorts on the reef require multiple flights from Sydney, but Hayman is one of the most accessible. Travelers fly to Hamilton Island, and spend the last leg of the trip on a one hour boat ride to the Hayman Island Resort, while drinking an unlimited supply of free champagne. (Time does seem to drift by.) Once there, forget the thrills of competition and check out one of the world’s greatest places for diving, swimming, snorkeling, and just lying in the sun.

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