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Australian Media Betting Dawn Fraser Will Light Olympic Flame

Aired September 11, 2000 - 2:44 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: But with the 2000 Summer Olympic Games opening in Sydney, Australia Friday, speculation is running high as to who will light the Olympic flame.

CNN's John Raedler talks with the woman Australian media have dubbed the odds-on favorite.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN RAEDLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a windswept park near the main Olympic site in Sydney, a 63-year-old woman reflects on her brilliant career: a career so brilliant that last year the sportswriters of the world voted her the greatest female in her sport of the 20th century.

DAWN FRASER, AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Every time I look at my trophy, I go, "ooh," get a bit of a shiver. No, it's a really great honor.

RAEDLER: This was Dawn Fraser 38 years ago, when she dominated the world of women's swimming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There she is. She touches.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAEDLER: She won the 100-meters freestyle in the 1956 Olympics. She did it again in 1960 and again in 1964: first swimmer, male or female, to win the same event in three Olympics. Then, the unthinkable: Australian swimming officials said she had disobeyed their orders at the '64 games and they banned her from competitive swimming for 10 years.

FRASER: It wasn't deserved, and because I didn't do things that they said I'd had done -- and it was a terrible sort of taste in my mouth, because, you know, to have been retired when I wasn't ready.

RAEDLER: A judge eventually overturned the ban, calling it petty and vindictive. By then, Fraser's brilliant career was over, but the injustice of what had happened to her solidified her status as a national icon: a status many here believe will see her light the Olympic flame in her hometown. FRASER: And if I'm that lucky person, well, it's going to be a wonderful moment. If I'm not, I'm still going to enjoy the opening ceremony of the 27th Olympiad.

RAEDLER (on camera): What makes Dawn Fraser favorite to light the flame is that no Australian has a better Olympic record, and few Australians are more beloved than the woman Aussies call, simply, our Dawn.

John Raedler, CNN, Sydney.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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