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Hands fly at Deaflympics opening ceremony

The Age, Australia
Stathi Paxinos January 6, 2005

Melbourne's Deaflympics began last night with a simple ceremony at Olympic Park that highlighted the enthusiasm of those who will be involved in nearly two weeks of tough competition.

Although the 12-day event has largely escaped the consciousness of the Melbourne public, the scale of the Deaflympics was apparent last night as more than 3500 athletes and officials filed into the stadium at the start of the opening ceremony.

As they were greeted by a grandstand of waving hands (the symbol for applause), the excitement of the participants was obvious - from the Fijians' spontaneous performance of a traditional dance, to the exuberant Italians who ran to the spectators in the stand, and the Swiss who bowed to the crowd.

The team from France, where the first Deaflympics was staged in 1924, was the first to enter Olympic Park. Australia, which has more than 230 participants, brought up the rear.

In between came nearly 100 countries - some, such as the United States, Britain, Greece and Canada, with large contingents, and others, such as Brazil and Romania, with much smaller teams.

The biggest cheers were left for the Australian team led by joint captains Kim Kavanagh, who carried the flag, and Dean Barton-Smith, who represented Australia at the 1992 Olympic Games in the decathlon.

The opening ceremony included contributions from Aboriginal, Chinese and Maori cultures and contemporary performers including Sophie Monk.

The carnival comprises competition in 15 sports, including soccer (which started on Tuesday night), swimming, athletics, table tennis, basketball and badminton.

- Athletics (Olympic Park): Morning session (9am): men's shot put, men's 100 metre, women's long jump, women's 400m, men's 400m. Night session (6pm): women's 10,000m, men's shot put, men's 100m, women's 100m, men's 10,000m
- Basketball (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre): Australia v Greece, women, 7pm; Australia v Greece, men, 9pm
- Cycling (Ballarat): 1000m sprint, 2pm-6.30pm - Soccer (Green Gully Reserve, Keilor Downs): Australia v Russia, women, 6pm
- Shooting (Melbourne International Shooting Club): 10m air pistol, 9am (preliminary); 12.15pm (final)
- Table Tennis (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre): men's and women's teams events, from 9am
- Volleyball (Sports and Aquatic Centre): Australia v Turkey, men, 9am; USA v Russia, women, noon.

Copyright © 2005. The Age Company Ltd.



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