It remains to be seen how effective Aborigines might be at trashing Australia's house during the Olympics, especially since the country's greatest hope for gold in track and field, 400-meter world champion Cathy Freeman, an Aborigine, voiced her view two months ago that politics should be left out of the Games. But recent events have hardened resolve to shame the Games with marches and the opening of a shadow embassy in Sydney to expose world media and VIPs to poverty-devastated indigenous communities and to statistics showing that Aborigines earn half as much and live an average of 20 years less than other Aussies.
The threat of a public relations disaster, along with a possible fracture within his Liberal Party, had Howard racing around with bucket and broom last week. He persuaded the chief minister of the Northern Territories to end mandatory sentences for juveniles who commit minor crimes and issued a half-baked apology to those offended by the submission.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Bondi Warriors threatened to chain themselves to bulldozers and prevent construction next month of the final Olympic venue, the temporary beach volleyball stadium planned for Sydney's most famous crescent of sand, Bondi Beach. Government and Games officials could only groan, look out their windows at Sydney's sparkling harbor and eccentric white-roofed building, and hope to distract the crotchety aunts with ferry rides and opera.
Looking for a reason why the out-of-nowhere Czech Republic Davis Cup team nearly toppled the seemingly invincible Americans, anchored by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, last weekend? Maybe the Czechs were motivated by pique. Before last Friday's singles matches the anthem played to honor the visitors was that of Czechoslovakia—a country that dissolved in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. "Next time the U.S. comes to the Czech Republic," said Czech player Slave Dosedel, "we will play the Mexican anthem."