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January 5, 2005

Deaflympics open tonight

From: Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia - Jan 5, 2005


A CHOIR of 1200 children will tonight herald the beginning of the first Deaflympics held in Australia.

The Australian Youth Choir will support Australian Idol stars Guy Sebastian and Paulini in the opening ceremony at Olympic Park in Melbourne.

Some 30,000 interstate and overseas visitors who have descended on the city for the 20th Summer Deaflympic Games, which will be the biggest in history.

About 3500 athletes from 94 countries will fire up when full competition gets underway tomorrow.

The Games are made up of 16 sports, including track and field, swimming, cycling and soccer. The only non-Olympic sport is tenpin bowling.

Games media director Susan Wright said the only difference from the Olympics was that flashing lights, hand signals or flags were used instead of a starting gun or whistle.

"In the Paralympics, the competitors are not physically able, while the athletes in the Deaflympics are physically able," she said.

"There's a lot of guys here who represent their country at Olympic or Commonwealth Games level.

"They're elite athletes and the only disadvantage is that they can't hear."

The Deaflympics have a longer history than the Commonwealth Games.

Originally known as the International Silent Games, they were first held in Paris in 1924.

For this year's Games, Australia will have a team of 200, which is the largest the country has ever fielded in the event.

Other big contingents include the United States, China and Britain.

The Melbourne Deaflympics are being used as a dry run for next year's $1.1 billion Commonwealth Games, with some Melbourne 2006 officials seconded to the Deaflympics organising committee.

A new running track has been laid at Olympic Park, which will also be used as a training and warm-up facility for Melbourne 2006.

The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre will be used extensively, while the central Victorian city of Ballarat has a key role as the venue for the marathon and road cycling events.

The Games run until January 16.

© Herald and Weekly Times