IM this article to a friend!

July 14, 2004

Protesters greet PM at deaf games event

From: The Age, Australia - Jul 14, 2004

Prime Minister John Howard was met by noisy protests over Aboriginal rights, environmental issues and the war in Iraq as he arrived at a gathering in Melbourne this evening to announce his patronage of the 2005 Victorian-hosted Olympic Games for deaf and hearing impaired.

The Deaflympics, being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, are expected to attract 3,500 deaf and hearing impaired athletes from more than 80 countries when they take place in Melbourne and Ballarat in January.

At the Federation Square venue to unveil the Deaflympic torch, Mr Howard was met by about 150 protesters who tried to block his entry to the event.

Police monitored the protesters as they milled around the prime minister's vehicle as he arrived, a police spokesman said.

A man was arrested for throwing a missile, assault, resisting police and being drunk.

He was expected to be charged on summons.

The protesters, representing environmental, aboriginal rights, anti-war and socialist groups, surrounded the venue and chanted outside when Mr Howard went in.

With the help of a sign language interpreter, Mr Howard told the audience of athletes, games organisers and sponsors that he was pleased to be a patron of the games, created in 1924.

"It's a remarkable reminder of how long ago people committed to sport decided that the enjoyment of sport and the opportunity to compete on behalf of one's country at Olympic Games level should be extended to people who are deaf or hearing impaired," Mr Howard said.

Master of ceremonies, former Olympic swimmer Nicole Livingstone, made light of the protest.

"I just hope when you come to the 2005 Deaflympics that you bring your cheer squad with you," she told Mr Howard.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, also a patron of the games, said the games would demonstrate Victoria's ability to host major sporting events and would lift the state's economy.

Copyright © 2004. The Age Company Ltd.