Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tour group arrives in sports capital of Australia

   MELBOURNE, Australia -- Our tour group took a 65-minute flight from rainy Sydney to overcast Melbourne on Saturday morning (Friday afternoon PST) and checked into our hotel.
   The Crown Metropol is part of a huge, Las Vegas-style complex that includes a casino, an upscale shopping mall, a cinema and restaurants. You have to be careful, because seemingly every building in the area is Crown something or other.
   I got in a quick workout on the 27th floor of the hotel and showered before we had dinner on the charming Colonial Tramcar Restaurant while traveling the streets of Melbourne (pronounced MEL-bun) for two quick hours.
   Afterward, some of us walked 30 minutes to Federation Square to watch part of Lleyton Hewitt's four-set victory over Milos Raonic in the third round of the Australian Open on a big-screen TV. We joined perhaps 1,000 other fans on a cool, breezy night.
   Raonic, a 21-year-old Canadian, will defend his title in the SAP Open in San Jose next month. Hewitt, 30, of Australia, won the tournament in 2002.
   Earlier Saturday, 21st-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia eliminated Vania King, who has played for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two seasons, 6-3, 6-4 in the third round.
   King and Yaroslava Shvedova, the third-seeded team in women's doubles, are scheduled to play Petra Martic and Kristina Mladenovic on Sunday in the third round.
   Melbourne bills itself as the sports capital of Australia. In addition to the Australian Open, it hosts a Formula One race, Australian rules football, the Australian Masters golf tournament and major cricket and horse racing events. The Melbourne Cricket Ground, more commonly known as MCG, has a capacity of 100,000. It is adjacent to Melbourne Park, the site of the Australian Open.
   No worries, mate -- Australians' reputation for friendliness appears to be well-deserved. Twice in Sydney, when I appeared lost, an Aussie volunteered to help.
   At a Sydney Airport shop, a cashier asked, "Where are you off to?" The next time that happens in the United States will be the first.
   Got a smoke? -- Many Aussies, however, apparently didn't get the memo that cigarettes can cause cancer.
   Outrageous prices, continued -- A glazed donut at the Krispy Kreme stand at Sydney Airport costs $2.50 Australian ($2.62 U.S.).

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