|Subject: KY: Olympic team in E. Timor to
accredit athletes for Sydney
Also: SMH: Timorese Eye Olympics
IOC team in E. Timor to accredit athletes for Sydney
By Tim Johnson
DILI, East Timor , June 17 --
A high-level International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegation arrived in U.N.-administered East Timor on Saturday to scout for local athletes to participate in the Sydney Olympic Games.
Delegation leader Kevan Gosper told reporters he and Pere Miro, IOC director of national Olympic committee relations and Olympic Solidarity, will "identify here individuals who might have the capacity to compete in the Sydney 2000 Games." "As well as that, we'll be looking at what other provisions and assistance we might be able to make to assist any identified athletes to compete in Sydney and to develop sport at the grass-roots level here," the IOC vice president said.
The visit follows the IOC Executive Board's May 26 decision to allow East Timor 's athletes to participate in the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 games as individuals, rather than as members of a national delegation.
East Timorese athletes must wear unmarked uniforms and will march in the opening ceremony behind the Olympic flag. If they win any medals the Olympic flag will be hoisted and the Olympic anthem played.
The territory's Olympic hopefuls include boxer Victor Ramos, who won a silver medal for Indonesia at the 1997 Southeast Asian Games.
East Timorese independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta, who heads the territory's as-yet-unrecognized national Olympic committee, told Gosper that the IOC's decision on East Timorese participation was "a tremendous joy" and a "psychological boost" for the East Timorese people.
"Finally we are walking with the community of nations, and East Timorese can show their skills even though the conditions of their training is probably the poorest in the world," he said.
After the results of the Aug. 30 independence vote were announced, East Timor was ravaged by Indonesian military-backed militias who went on a burning, looting and killing spree. Sports equipment and facilities were not spared.
"The vice president and his delegation will be able to see that the infrastructure is non-existent," Ramos-Horta said, noting that he recently witnessed a martial arts group practicing on cement in the absence of mats.
"If anyone were thrown to the floor, it would be a disaster. But that's how they train, on the hard cement floor," he said.
Ramos-Horta said East Timor needs not only equipment and facilities, but professional training and "a lot of reassurance psychologically."
"If we have proper material support and good training, in the next Olympics, four years from now, we can be a serious competitor," he said.
Gosper said East Timor 's association with the IOC will bring it scholarship opportunities, training facilities and funding.
To that end, he said, his delegation wants to help East Timor get a bona fide national Olympic committee up and running between now the Sydney Olympics.
The IOC decision to make an exception for East Timor came after strong lobbying by Australia as well as from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Australia played a major role in helping East Timor break away from Indonesia and Portugal, which ruled East Timor for 400 years prior to 1975.
The former Portuguese colony is expected to achieve full independence in one to two years' time.
News And Features; International News
06/17/2000 Sydney Morning Herald Page 18 Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd
It is late afternoon on the dusty roadside behind the sprawling United Nations headquarters. A few East Timorese men and women in tatty tracksuits practise sparring, stretching exercises and sprints. One man uses the branch of a tree to do chin-ups.
Welcome to the training ground for the handful of East Timorese who hope to compete in the Olympics.
Streaked with sweat from a powerhouse sparring session, a boxing hopeful, Victor Ramos, explains his program.
``I'm jogging every morning and doing training boxing [sparring] every afternoon. So far we're just preparing that's all. We need a lot of equipment and training. We don't know for sure who is going in the Olympics but we just keep on preparing,'' he says.
Ramos, 30, is a medal-winner at several regional events, including the Asian Games and the Arafura Games in Darwin. During the week he works as a security guard with the United Nations transitional administration.
Despite their support for East Timor 's entry into the Olympics, his UN employers have seen no reason to release Mr Ramos, even part-time, to allow a fuller training program.
``As soon as I finish work around 2pm or 3pm, there's no time for a lunch break. I just start training, every day, seven days a week,`` he says.
East Timor 's Olympic hopes centre on a small team of boxers, weightlifters and two female track-and-fieldaspirants.
Wearing a black Indonesian army ``Korps Brimob'' T-shirt, Cezar Tinto, 23, hopes for selection as a welterweight boxer. How he would feel if he came up against an Indonesian opponent?
``During Indonesian times we were one but now I would be very proud to represent East Timor . We're a separate nation and in the ring we would be enemies,'' he replies.
Mr Tinto, who is employed as a guard by Chubb Security, works a day shift before getting time off for training. The Indonesian administration had recognised his talent for boxing and had provided regular training, but that finished last September with the militias' bloody rampage after the August30 ballot for independence.
The militia set fire to the old Dili public sports centre, and only its scorched walls remain standing.
The third member of the boxing team is Rogerio Amaral, 25, who fought for Indonesia in the Kings Cup in Thailand.
Victor Pereira, 35, introduces himself as the trainer.
``We've had some assistance from Australia. They provided us with a sandbag [punching bag] and some equipment, but we've still got problems with training,'' he says.
``The Olympic Games is a huge event and I'm worried that sending these people over might be like hanging them off that tree and having them used as punching bags I'm afraid of that.
``We need special food, special training programs, a place to train, proper equipment, speed balls, bandages, tape, face guards, mouth guards, groin pads, skipping ropes, barbells and proper shoes and socks,'' he says, reeling off a wish list, and adding that his boxers would appreciate sparring practice with amateur boxers from Australia.
Clutching a water bottle and wearing a faded 1993 South-East Asian Games windcheater, Domingas Monteiro talks about her hopes of winning selection for the 800 metres and 1,500 metres events.
The jacket conjures fond memories. It is one of the few items of sporting equipment that survived when the militia burnt her home in Dili.
Last month the International Olympic Committee voted to allow the participation of athletes from East Timor , although their tracksuits and uniform will be all white, with no national markings, because East Timor is under UN transitional rule.
The Olympic team has not yet been selected, but the situation is likely to be clearer after a visit this weekend by Australia's Olympic executive Mr Kevan Gosper.
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