Champion horses fly in greatest equine airlift

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Sydney: The world's biggest single movement of horses by air will begin on Monday, when the first load of 237 animals from 23 countries arrives in Sydney to compete in the Games.

An estimated $ 250 million to $ 430 million worth of horses, 100 tonnes of equipment and 164 grooms will touch down at Sydney Airport on five flights - three from Germany, one from Britain, and one from the United States - between Monday and Friday.

The average round-trip cost of transporting each horse in wide stalls is $ 60,000. Once the horses arrive by truck at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre they will be cleared by quarantine officers before being placed in the care of an equine veterinary team headed by Dr Jack Snyder, from the University of California, Davis, who held similar roles in Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta.

SOCOG's veterinary services manager, Dr Nigel Nichols, said all individual medallist and a representative of each winning team would be drug-tested, and random swabbing would occur during competition.

The 100 cubic metres of manure generated each day will be buried at a nearby waste centre. When Melbourne hosted the 1956 Games, the equestrian events were held in Sweden, due in part to Australia's quarantine requirements at the time.

Flame set for a magical mystery tour of Parkes

Don't be surprised if there is an Olympic torch episode of the X-Files - particularly after it goes through Parkes in New South Wales.

The torch has already been into space (although the technology hasn't been developed yet to make it burn in a vacuum), and last night it took on a sci-fi theme, with a bit of horror thrown in to whip up all those would-be Mulders and Scullys.

During the day, crowds lined the streets, families brought their children for the local Games experience, and the folks of Parkes put on a parade with floats representing about 50 different sports.

There was musical reconstructions - by students from half a dozen regional schools - of Games "history, culture, heritage and lifestyles" during six different Olympics, from Athens to Barcelona. But as the cold night settled in on the northern NSW town, strange and unexplained things started to take place.

Following a fireworks display just before 8 pm, the mayor, councillor Robert Wilson, took the torch up to the famous Parkes Radio Telescope. They tilted the dish down and the Mayor hoped on, harnessed to the dish, and it was elevated with the Mayor (and the Olympic Flame) on top."

Looking on will be Ken and Tim Keith, the deputy mayor and town crier - who are twins, despite being born on different days. According to a local source, Ken was born a stroke the shy side of midnight, while Tim arrived a dash after twelve.

But - and this might send a chill down your spine - in a true X-Files moment, the cauldron was lit by none other than the local undertaker.

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