by Jim Provenzano

Ah, the pageantry of the Olympics. The drug tests, the sellouts, the corporate tie-ins, the commemorative merchandise!

One prize that's been weighing down my coffee table for months is The Sydney Dream.

Published by the same folks who put out the elegantly homoerotic Blue and Black + White art photo books, The Sydney Dream features some of the Olympics' handsomest Australian athletes in the altogether, unlike those prudish Americans.

With a nice balance of eroticism and athleticism, The Sydney Dream takes the classic Interview magazine 1984 Olympics Bruce Weber collection further, with more exposure, more athletes and a lot more water.

Over a dozen photographers (Gavin O'Neill, Lyn Balzer, Anthony Perkins, Gaby Hughes, among others) have artfully captured jocks like boxer Paul Miller and women's water polo player Bronwyn Mayer in a variety of artful poses (i.e., no wiener shots, but several nipples). Best of show: the men's water polo team, natch. Everybody else is classically nude, but they've still got those cute hats.

Michell, Ma Belle

While the pictures of men can be found on more celebrity sports nude collections online than you get shake a Java script at, fewer include the daring and artful pics of women athletes like diver Chantelle Michell.

"I've watched so many opening ceremonies and always hoped one day it would be me walking out with the Australian team. That's what keeps me going," she says in a quote from the book. Fourth in the three-meter dive, second in the one-metre dive at the world Cup, Michell hoped to perfect her "forward two-and-a-half somersault with a twist."

Brief biographical sketches on the subjects make this more than a objectification of athletic beauty, and more an appreciation of the wonders of the human form. The luxury of underwater shots gives creedence to the mythological relation between people who become dolphins, and dolphins who became Olympians.

You may have a problem getting a copy of The Sydney Dream. When I graciously received a review copy at the Chicago BookExpo, they'd already sold out of their first edition. I know the feeling.

Copies of The Atlanta Dream, the 1996 version of this book featuring that year's Aussie contenders, are still available at $45.00 AUS. You'll have to do the math.

You can contact Studio Magazines at Level 3, York House, 101-111 William St., Sydney 2011.

Book 'Em

Since NBC's coverage will certinaly include nary a nipple, and be limited to smarmy profiles and a myopic ethnocentric focus on US athletes, you might want to read up on the big picture. Here are some other tomes whose press releases came my way. They didn't give me a free copy, not that I asked, but they get less space anyway.

Inside the Olympic Industry: Power, Politics and Activism (SUNY Press, $19.95) looks at the recent bribing scandals and their effect on the games. Perhaps someone should send a copy to Mark Janssens. Where is he these days, hmmm?

The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics by David Wallechinsky (Overlook, $23.95) and The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000 from Dorling Kindersley (DK, $29.95) are comprehensive historical overviews of the Games. Little mention of the gay folk, of course.

Track and field athletes come into their own during the games. A few of them get huge cereal contracts afterward. Two titles to look out for are Michael Johnson: Sprinter Deluxe (GHB - that's the press, not the drug - $12.95) and See How She Runs: Marion Jones & the Making of a Champion by Ron Rapoport (Algonquin, $21.95), like we need any more press about Marion. No longer a bio book or mag cover story, everything's in triplicate for max-ploitation.

The U.S. swimmers wore puritan bodysuits this Olympiad. For a retrospective of the days when guys showed more, and made a lot of of poolside straight cameramen nervous ("I said pan up, Fred! Pan up! That kid's showin' bulge!"), check out First to the Wall, 100 Years of Olympic Swimming by Kelly A. Gonsalves (FreeStyle, $24.95).

If only I'd saved that Mark Spitz poster from my youth, I'd be paying a mortgage from one E-Bay sale.

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