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Spectators feel the heat as Athens Games fire up
Updated: 2004-08-14 21:38

Olympic swimming was an extremely hot sport on Saturday, at least for the spectators.

While those in the water had few complaints about the blazing Athens heat, it was a different story for the paying public and press as the mercury crept up to around 37 degrees Celsius at the open-air Aquatic Centre.

Reporters sheltered under umbrellas or crouched behind makeshift cardboard screens to guard against the glare, heads covered in towels to prevent the sweat dripping onto baking keyboards.

"You can only last for a couple of races and then you need to go and stand outside in the shade and wait for the breeze to kick in," said American visitor Leslie Lanne, watching sister Colleen help qualify the US team for the 4x100 metres freestyle relay final.

"But I'm originally from Arizona and it gets a lot hotter there," said the Boston native.

It was a similar story elsewhere, with cycling officials handing out light blue Athens 2004 umbrellas in the sweltering press seating area.

Few Concerns

The world's top athletes, with ice vests and a range of hi-tech materials to help them keep cool, expressed few concerns.

Tennis players, used to the heat of Australia and tournaments around the world, shrugged off the conditions: "We are all professional athletes, we will be okay," said British medal hope Tim Henman.

"The heat did not affect me at all because in Brazil we're used to competing more or less like it is here," said 400 metres individual medley swimmer Lucas Salatta.

Andrew Mackay of the Cayman Islands said: "We're from the Caribbean so we're used to this but it's definitely really hot here. The goal is just to stay in the shade and then get out there and race even though it's hot.

"The sun gets in your eyes but that is what tinted goggles are for."

The Aquatics Centre was supposed to have a roof but that idea was shelved before the Games due to construction delays -- a good thing according to some.

"I think it would have blocked the breeze and probably made it even worse," Lanne said.

At the softball venue, spectators were warned every couple of innings to drink plenty of liquid while officials handed out bottles of water at the rowing.

"It's very, very dry out there," gasped British rowing hope James Cracknell, who helped his coxless four qualify for the semi-final.

An old-fashioned beach hat and lashings of sun cream might have been good enough for some but not for the finely honed athletes bidding for glory in the world's biggest sporting spectacle.

The Dutch rowing crew wore kit made from a special cooling material, reflecting the sun and dispersing body heat by allowing sweat to evaporate more efficiently.

There was more conventional attire at the popular beach volleyball venue, where almost all the public seats were out in the open and spectators basked in their swimwear.





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