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September 8, 2000
Historic East Timor team arrivesScott McDonald
The historic first team of athletes from troubled East Timor arrived in Sydney on Thursday to take part in the Olympics one year after their country voted to end more than 23 years of rule by Indonesia.
The arrival came within days of the slaying on nearby West Timor of three United Nations workers with the killings seen as part of attempts at cementing pro-Jakarta militias' control of West Timor along the border with U.N. run East Timor.
"Here they are, the most historic team for these Games," International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president Kevan Gosper said as the four athletes stepped off a plane.
The quartet will have a special place of honour during the Opening Ceremony by entering the stadium on September 15 just ahead of hosts Australia.
The athletes -- two marathon runners, a boxer and a weightlifter -- were selected by the IOC, and will march in plain white uniforms as independent athletes with no insignia other than the Olympic rings.
Marathoner Aguida Amaral, 25, said she was happy to be able to represent East Timor.
"I speak for the four of us. I'm here in Australia to represent our country. We want to tell the world we are able to do it," said Amaral.
Weightlifter Martinho Araujo, 27, referred to the violence that swept East Timor after the independence vote when he said: "Yes, it was a very difficult time, but we are here."
The territory with 800,000 people, covering the eastern half of Timor island north of Australia, is in ruins after the vote was followed by widespread violence and destruction carried out by well-armed pro-Jakarta militias.
The violence was so disruptive that all of the belongings and training equipment of the four was destroyed, and when the IOC went to East Timor to identify possible athletes Amaral asked for a pair of shoes to train in.
Gosper would not say how the four will be introduced during the Opening Ceremony, but added "there'll be no problem knowing where they come from".
The four were chosen from 10 potential Olympic competitors who have been training in Darwin in northern Australia for the last six weeks with help from the Australian Institute of Sport.
The others are boxer Victor Ramos, 30, the most accomplished of the four who was an Indonesian champion who has also competed in Italy and Japan.
Ramos will fight in the 60 kg division.
The other competitor is Calisto Da Costa, 22, who will run in the men's marathon.
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.
It is now under temporary U.N. control and the United Nations said in July that elections and possibly final independence could take place by the end of 2001.
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