Cricket overshadowed, but temporarily

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2000, 15:30 [IST]
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Citius, altius, fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger), the Olympic motto, not only motivates the competitors, who come together in friendly rivalry every four years, but also the countries that host the Games.

How much prestige is involved in just playing host to the greatest sporting cavalcade that mankind has given to itself, is borne out by the fact that no small fortune is spent on the bidding itself, leave aside the enormous amount of time, money and effort expended in its very organisation.

Each subsequent hosting country, or rather the city, tries to outdo the previous Games in size and sophistication. Even before Sydney 2000 opened last Friday, it set records of sorts. The number of participating nations rose from 130 at Atlanta (1996) to just one short of the 200-mark.

Then, the beautifully-constructed Stadium Australia became the biggest single amphitheatre in the modern Olympics. It has a seating capacity for 110,000 spectators, not to mention other facilities for thousands of competitors, officials and media representatives. The most massive by any standards.

There are no prizes for guessing which was the previous biggest main Olympics Stadium before Stadium Australia, but the question might be quite a tricky one, unless your are a cricket buff.

Yes, the previous biggest main Olympics venue was the Melbourne Cricket Ground, famously known as the MCG, which was converted into an Olympic arena in 1956. Forty-four years ago, its capacity was 100,000.Of course, with the addition of the Grand Western Stand, at the time of the 1992 World Cup of Cricket, the capacity at MCG is now over 110,000.

Indians have achieved some unforgettable feats for themselves and the country at the MCG. The double century scored by Lala Amarnath (against Victoria); off just 170 balls, was rated by no less a person than Don Bradman as one of the best knocks he had ever seen played by a visiting batsman.

Then it was Neville D'Souza who had the unique distinction of scoring the only hat-trick of the 1956 Olympics football tournament. His three-in-a-row had come against Yugoslavia. Of course the triumphant, golden run of Indian hockey had continued for the sixth Olympics in-a-row. All this happened at the MCG.

Today, both cricket and the MCG have taken a back seat, as all attention is focussed on the first Olympics of the new millennium.

The break from cricket, however, will not be for long. As soon as the Olympic flame in the giant cauldron is extinguished, international cricket will be ushered in, in a big way with the start of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Knock Out tournament at Nairobi.

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