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Sydney builds for life after the Olympics

The Games begin a year from today, yet Australia also plans to turn the Olympic village into a livable suburb

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Take away the construction workers laboring nearby and the occasional tourist wandering in for a peek, and Newington, Australia looks like any other middle-class suburb.

There's a maintenance crew trying to get a deeper shade of green out of a lawn, a mother bringing her toddler to the playground for a late-morning romp, and luxury sedans parked in driveways here and there.

"A doctor and his family have just moved into that house," Newington's marketing manager, Simon Norris, says proudly as he points to a recently finished four-bedroom home on a corner that overlooks a park.

But there's one big difference with this suburb still under construction. A year from now, more than 15,000 of the world's best athletes, coaches, and referees will be in town, and Newington will be known by a different name: the Olympic village.

What's more, this new community is now a major part of the transformation brought on in Sydney by the Olympics. When the Games are over, they will leave behind a new middle-class suburb that has risen from what was once a dumping ground.

Only two-thirds of Newington's development will be completed before the summer Olympics, which begin next Sept. 15, and construction is slated to continue into 2006. But when it is finished, Newington will house some 5,000 people in 1,100 three- and four-bedroom homes and 1,000 apartments.

In Sydney's heart

"This is not just an Olympic facility, but the creation of a new suburb in the demographic heart of Sydney," said Hugh Martin, chief executive officer of the consortium developing Newington, when construction began in July 1997.

Sydney's political heart, and the one it likes to show the world, lies around the city's magnificent harbor. But its true geographic center has long been farther west, up the industrial banks of the Parramatta River toward where Newington and the Homebush Olympic complex are now.


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