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Australia prepares to 'give it a go'

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  • Olympic Games usually draw intense media coverage in Australia
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By Chris Reason
Seven Network Olympics Correspondent
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Editor's note: CNN's global network of affiliates will be providing dispatches from their countries on the Olympics. In this report, Seven Network reports from Australia.

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- If Australia could compete in an Olympic Games at the end of every month, it would be a happier nation.

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A fan celebrates after Australia's soccer team defeated Iraq last November in an Olympic qualifying match.

Australians love sport -- and are good at it. Astonishingly good.

At the last two Olympic Games, Australia ranked fourth in the medal tally behind powerhouse nations USA, China and Russia.

Fourth place!

And that with a population of just 20 million people. That's the head count of a couple of decent-sized cities in those three countries.

So you've got to ask the question -- how does a country with such a small population do that?

You might think there must be something in the water here, but it can't be that. We've been in a drought for the past 10 years.

Drugs? We've had our share of doping controversies, but no hint of anything that could create success on that scale.

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In my opinion, we can put much of it down to the nation's long, proud embrace of its fully certified mental disorder. When it comes to the Olympics, Australia is an obsessive-compulsive.

Every four years, when the Olympics roll around, our national colors -- that gaudy mix of green and gold -- will start creeping into the dress sense of even the normally fashion-conscious. Citizens will start brushing up on the words to our arcane national anthem and athletes we've never heard of will start appearing in television ads for washing detergents and breakfast cereals.

Channel Seven, the Olympics broadcaster, will drop all its normal programming for the 16 days of competition and switch to continuous coverage of the games. Does any other country in the world demand that much Olympic TV?

The network devotes around 22 hours of every day to the Games. The other two hours are left for news programs, which will spend their precious minutes covering... the Olympics!

The papers will be full of it, conversation will be of little else, and some will take holidays so they can do nothing but sit in front of their televisions.

Politicians with bad news announcements or scandals to drop will invariably do so during the Olympics because they know everything will be buried beneath the avalanche of athletics.

It's a disease with no official name. Hyper-lympia? Post-Olympic Stress Disorder? Whatever it's called, Australia has it bad.

Simple clinical diagnosis would probably trace the condition back to 1896, the year of the first modern Olympic Games, when a trainee accountant from Melbourne called Edwin Flack headed to Greece as Australia's first Olympian.

It wasn't enough that he would win two golds for distance running. He played tennis socially back home. So, on a whim, he also entered the doubles events and went on to win a bronze.

And there, in that simple moment, was born an attitude that Australians love to call their own, the "give it a go" attitude.

Through the ages, that creed has crept through the national sports psyche. Whatever obscure events the International Olympic Committee throws into the schedule, a couple of Australians will undoubtedly manage to scrape together a team or some national funding to "give it a go."

There are few events that Australians won't have a crack at.

But there are fears that this time, at the Beijing edition of the Olympic story, there might not be a fairy tale ending for the team in gold and green.

After punching above our weight for so long, experts are predicting that this time, we may slip back a division and lose our top five status.

And it's not just because legend swimmer Ian Thorpe, our greatest ever Olympian, has retired.

It's that the competition is seriously heating up: with the 2012 Olympics looming, Britain has poured millions into its team and already they've started collecting world titles.

The French, too, are a threat after a successful 2007.

It gets worse.

On top of potentially losing our membership of the Famous Five, there is another threat to Australia's dignity: the very real prospect that we will lose our other major Olympic title.

The Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 were declared by former IOC supremo Juan Antonio Samaranch (and pretty much everyone else who mattered) to be "the best Games ever".

But most believe it's a forgone conclusion that Beijing will better us. Sydney will have to be content with being the second best ever.

Now that will produce a post-Olympic stress disorder like we've never seen. Does anyone know a good sports psychologist? E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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