If there ever was a land of milk and honey then it must have looked something like South Australia, especially to those of us who are at present huddled in the northern hemisphere's long, cold, damp winter. The beautiful area around Adelaide, with its rolling hills, wineries and fabulous beaches, seems like a sort of magical, sun-drenched dreamland; it doesn't really need any extra attractions to lure visitors to its white, unspoilt shores.

But, even in this lucky land, tourism is an industry that is hardly likely to look a gift horse in the mouth. That gift-horse was the Olympics and suddenly Australia became synonymous with the word sport.

The country's local authorities and event organisers are riding high on the back of the success and Adelaide in particular, with its enviable climate, has realised the potential of staging world-class events. For the next few months the city looks set to become one of the premier sports venues in the world.

Look at the impressive, international sporting schedule for the months between December and April and you'll probably agree that there is no better place for a sports fan to be... The season starts with the Ford Open Golf Championship (7th-10th December); then comes the grand finale of the 2000 American Le Mans Motor-Racing Series on New Year's Eve; followed almost immediately by the AAPT Tennis Championship (1st-7th January 2001); then the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, a six-day cycling event (16th-21st January 2001) and lastly the Clipsal 500 Adelaide Shell Championship Series for V8 Supercars (6th, 7th and 8th April 2001) - a truly impressive listing for one city.

And sports fans taking advantage of this extraordinary schedule will have the added lure of enjoying the region's natural splendours, such as lovely countryside and world-class beaches, not to mention internationally renowned wines and foods.

What to Expect

Sunshine - of that you can be sure. South Australia is sunny and hot during the December to April period and one thing visitors should certainly pack is a good sun-bloc. There are long, clean beaches to the west of Adelaide, picturesque Adelaide Hills to the east and the city is Australia's gateway to the wide rolling wilderness of the Outback. There's even a remote and unspoiled island just down the coast where you can watch penguins waddle onto pristine shores and less than 30 minutes from the city you'll find quaint rural villages, orchards, wineries and farmland.

The Ford Open Golf Championship, held at Adelaide's Kooyong Golf Club (7th-10th December), is one of Australia's top golfing events and it always attracts top players from around the world. This year it also plays host to a Golf Expo, an ideal attraction for all addicts of the great game. Previous winners of South Australia's top golfing award include Greg Norman, Nick Price, Steve Alker, Brett Ogle, Stuart Bouvier and the 1999 winner, Craig Parry.

Next in Adelaide's great sporting schedule comes what may well prove to be the biggest event of the lot. Just after Christmas, the 2000 American Le Mans Series comes to town. It isn't so much a motor-race as an entire circus - a new, unique championship which, organisers say, 'captures the mystique, spectacle, speed and passion of the 24-hours of Le Mans. Some of the world's finest drivers with an extensive array of spectacular and fast racing cars will be the icing on the cake of this entertainment spectacular.'

The very name suggests great motoring marques such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, but no matter how classic the pedigree, the event will provide a unique testing ground for manufacturers to demonstrate their latest technology and prowess. The race begins on the streets of Adelaide at 4:00 pm on New Year's Eve and the cars, driven by some of the biggest names in motor sport, are expected to cover more than 1000 kilometres before the chequered flag calls a halt six hours later.

Straight after New Year, Adelaide hosts the AAPT Tennis Championships (1st-7th January) drawing some of the top names in the international game. The tournament, played at the famous Memorial Drive courts, has made a big name for itself in recent years and fans can expect to see such players as Henman, Norman, Stoltenberg, Fromberg, Enquist and Hewitt.

Just over a week later, the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under international road-cycling race (16th-21st January) is staged over six days in Adelaide and in some of South Australia's most beautiful countryside. Top professional cycling teams from Italy, Germany, France and Australia make this the biggest international cycling event of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Indeed, the event has become increasingly important to professional riders who can collect all-important world-ranking points from winning each of the stages.

April 6th, 7th and 8th brings more motor racing. The Clipsal 500 Adelaide is the first endurance event of the Shell Championship Series for V8 supercars and is conducted over two extremely fast 250-kilometre stages. This large event comes complete with all the fun of the fair including air displays, stunt and driving acts and street parties.

Where to Stay

Adelaide does have an enviable choice of fine hotels, but it may well be worth booking early to avoid disappointment. Here are two of the best in town:

Thorngrove Manor is renowned as one of the best small hotels in Australia. Its turreted, baroque exterior, together with its flamboyant and romantic interiors, certainly make this one of the most memorable hotels you'll ever stay in. It boasts, of course, all the modern facilities that you'd expect to find at a top hotel, but the antiques and handcrafted decor also help to produce an ideal retreat for anyone who has spent a long, hot day at the motor-racing circuit.

Thorngrove Manor
Glenside Lane
South Australia 5152
Tel: +61 08 8339 6748
Fax: +61 08 8370 9950
E-mail: thorngro@cobweb.com.au
Web site: www.slh.com/pages/o/oveausa.html

The Hyatt Regency Adelaide enjoys one of the city's finest locations on the picturesque River Torrens close to the Festival Centre, the Convention Centre, Casino and Parliament House. From this luxurious, centrally positioned hotel you can easily discover the many charms of town on foot as Adelaide is an agreeably compact place that locals have dubbed '20-minute city', as that's the time it takes to get from one end of town to the other.

Hyatt Regency Adelaide
North Terrace
SA 5000
Tel: +61 8 8231 1234
Fax: +61 8 8231 1120
E-mail: adelaide@hyatt.com.au
Web site: adelaide.hyatt.com/adela/index.html

Further useful websites:
2000 American Le Mans Series - www.americanlemans.com
Down Under cycle racing - www.tourdownunder.com.au/index.htm
The Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar racing - www.clipsal500.com.au
General South Australia tourism - www.visit-southaustralia.com.au

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