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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 08:10 GMT
Howard enters Melbourne media row
John Howard
Howard is well-known for his forthright opinions
Australia Prime Minister John Howard has criticised Games officials for their plans to fine media outlets who reveal details of the opening ceremony.

Organisers were angry that news of the spectacular at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 15 March was being leaked.

They threatened fines of up to 100,000 and revoking Games accreditation.

Howard said: "It's ridiculous, the Games is a great event but the opening ceremony is not national security, they are losing a sense of proportion."

Earlier this week, Channel Nine in Australia broadcast pictures of the centrepiece of the ceremony, a replica of a Melbourne tram with wings, which is thought will fly dramatically over the famous stadium.

Howard insisted that prior knowledge of some of the entertainment was not disastrous and said: "If it gets out it's a pity, but good luck to the journalists, that's the nature of the craft."

Games officials insisted that their stern measures were justified.

"We're trying to get the media to appreciate and understand that this is a surprise party," a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Games organisers confirmed that 12,000 tickets remained unsold for the opening ceremony (0900-1200 GMT Wednesday 15 March).

The Queen will be the guest of honour and it is reported Australia's Hollywood contingent, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman, may appear, along with singer Kylie Minogue, who is in her hometown of Melbourne recovering from breast cancer treatment.

Chief executive John Harnden was optimistic of getting close to a sell-out.

"Opening ceremony sales are going well. We've sold about 4,000 tickets over the last seven days (and) those rates of sales are continuing."

Tickets sales for some events such as rugby sevens and some athletics sessions have also been sluggish.

But Harnden said overall more than 1.3m tickets had been sold which was "an enormous number and bigger than any other Commonwealth Games ever".

An attempt to sell more backfired when a mailshot by organsiers mistakenly included people who had died.

It emerged that a database containing old information was used, and Games officials were forced to apologise after receiving complaints from some relatives of the deceased.



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