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Page last updated at 07:54 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 08:54 UK

Aussies to skip Beijing ceremony

Jana Rawlinson
400m hurdle hope Rawlinson will prepare for the Games in Japan

Most of Australia's track and field athletes will skip the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on 8 August because of fears over poor air quality.

Athletics Australia says competitors will stay in a Hong Kong holding camp until a few days before their events.

Performance manager Max Binnington said: "Anything more than five or six days and athletes inevitably end up with some sort of respiratory problem.

"So many sports who don't have to be there early are choosing not to go in."

The athletics programme does not start until 15 August and Binnington added: "As many sports have said, China presents difficulties for athletes going in and being there for a period of time.

"The outcome is that it's almost impossible to go for the opening ceremony."

One of Australia's strongest medal hopes in Beijing, two-time 400m hurdles world champion, Jana Rawlinson has opted to complete her preparations in Japan, along with the race walkers.

Australia's triathletes will also miss the opening ceremony because of health concerns.

The Australian Olympic Committee had said earlier that the decision to delay the arrival of some athletes was about logistics rather than health concerns.

"Most of the athletes have decided to come in later and not march," stated AOC spokesman Mike Tancred.

"Generally those competing on the first day or the second day don't march, standing up for eight hours a day or so before competition isn't a medically smart thing to do."

see also
Team GB warned against smog masks
28 Apr 08 |  Olympics
Rogge admits Beijing air concern
09 Apr 08 |  Olympics
China in Olympics pollution drive
26 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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