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|August 28, 2000||
Special honour for East TimorScott McDonald in Sydney
Athletes from East Timor will have a special place of honour just ahead of host Australia in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Games, a top Olympic official said on Monday.
Four athletes from the troubled nation will enter the stadium during the ceremony just before Australia's athletes, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President Kevan Gosper told Reuters from Lausanne, Switzerland.
"They will march immediately before the Australian team, but separate from the Australians," Gosper said.
The athletes -- two marathon runners, a boxer and a weightlifter -- were selected last week by the IOC, and will march in plain white uniforms as independent athletes with no insignia other than the Olympic rings.
It is only the second time independent athletes have been allowed to compete in a modern Olympics -- a Yugoslav squad were the first in 1992.
"It is one of the most satisfying events for me since I was on the committee that brought South Africa back into the Olympics," said Gosper, who has been leading the push to include athletes from East Timor in the Sydney Games, which start on September 15.
"It is a unique situation as they are independent but have no elected government yet," he said.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year in a move never recognised by the United Nations.
In August last year, East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-held ballot, but that vote was followed by widespread violence and destruction carried out by well-armed pro-Jakarta militias. East Timor is now under temporary U.N. control.
The four athletes were chosen from 10 potential Olympic competitors who have been training in Darwin in northern Australia for the last six weeks.
Boxer Victor Ramos, 30, is the most accomplished of the four, having been an Indonesian champion who has also competed in Italy and Japan.
Ramos will fight in the 60 kg division.
The others are women marathoners, Aguida Amaral, 25, and Calisto Da Costa, 22, and men's weightlifter Martinho De Araujo, 27, who will compete in the 56 kg division.
Gosper is in Lausanne for IOC meetings, including one to reduce the number of bidders for the 2008 Summer Games.
A final list of candidates will come from Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Havana, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Paris, Seville and Toronto.
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