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Carnival Air Outside Olympic Stadium

July 20, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ By thousands they came, the well-heeled, well-connected or just plain lucky, the ones with tickets for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. They came early and endured a searing sun. And they were thrilled to do it.

``It’s the chance of a lifetime. Wouldn’t you wait a couple of hours?″ said Ron Campbell of Marietta.

Michael Josephson and his wife, Anne, came from Los Angeles after capturing seats through a mail-order ticket lottery that left many grumbling over the process.

``We ordered $16,000 worth of tickets,″ Anne Josephson said.

At the stadium, the crowd was so dense that emergency workers had trouble reaching nine people who fainted from the heat and one who suffered chest pains at an entrance.

``It’s a mess,″ said Scott Hamilton, a supervisor for Southern Ambulance. ``We’re not ready for it. It’s mass confusion.″

People without tickets were being kept several hundred yards away from the Olympic stadium and were entertaining themselves. Some were shopping. One played a drum. The crowd cheered when the Thunderbirds went over, and got spectacular views of fireworks.

``This is better than the Fourth of July,″ said Dorothy Meriweather, who lives in the neighborhood.

Louie Barbosa of Los Angeles was trading pins in the crowd, but mainly tried to score tickets from scalpers.

``They want too much money _ $500, $400. That’s way too high. I paid $200 to $300 for the opening ceremony in Barcelona,″ Barbosa said.

Premium seats were $636 when they went on sale a year ago.

Richard Matthews of suburban Norcross carried a video and still camera in hand.

``I said when they light the torch, I’m going to see that with my own two eyes. We’re videotaping the program at home and I can see that later,″ Matthews said.

The ticket market was brisk a little earlier as dusk fell.

``I’m not looking to spend a lot,″ said Peter Lamas of Atlanta, walking toward the stadium with one finger in the air to show he was a potential buyer. He been offered tickets at face value, but was waiting for prices to drop.

A man who refused to give his name was offering one ticket for $400, which he claimed was a good seat. ``It’s a tough market,″ he said.

A carnival air prevailed as the crowds strolled down what has temporarily been designated ``The Olympic Way″ _ formerly a major automobile thoroughfare. Now it is a pedestrian mall reaching almost a mile from the gold-domed state Capitol to the $232 million Olympic stadium.

Norm and Tina Hindle and their three children, who live near Melbourne, Australia, were just taking in the scene. ``We’re seeing all the Olympic things. We’ve seen the stadium, now we’re going down to the park,″ Tina Hindle said.

``It’s lovely,″ she said.

Members of a Monmouth, N.J., Assemblies of God Church passed out multilingual religious tracts and performed a dance to Christian music. Joe Green, the pastor, said he brought a group of 700.

Street vendors offered everything from $18 T-shirts to $10 seat cushions. They had pins (various prices), ball caps with battery powered fans attached ($25), Italian ices ($2) and bottled water ($3 for 16 ounces).

For seriously overheated spectators, there also was something called ``Polar Ice″ _ a gizmo that is soaked in water and wraps around the neck to keep the body cool. ``There’s like little crystals in here that, like, you know, expand,″ said vendor Beth Martorell of Atlanta.

Price? ``Ten dollars, but that’s already cold,″ she said, perhaps sensing a sale.

For one that’s not already cold? ``Ten dollars.″

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