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Athletes pulled from Beijing Opening Ceremony -

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ASHLEY HALL: For many Olympic athletes, competing at the games is not the entire experience. There
is also the pomp and pageantry that goes along it.

The opening ceremony in particular is an inspiring focal point, where excited athletes get to show
their colours as they march around the stadium.

Athletes competing the next day, usually swimmers and cyclists, often miss out on the experience.

But for August's Beijing Games, Athletics Australia has made the decision to pull its athletes from
the opening ceremony even though they are not competing until the second week. And some athletes
are upset.

Athletics Australia's national performance manager Max Binnington has told our Olympics reporter,
Karen Barlow, that there are concerns that Beijing's pollution.

MAX BINNINGTON: The experience that we and other sports have had is that if people are in China for
a length of a week or so, that they tend to end up respiratory problems. Now we have had athletes
come back from the recent test event and one athlete's got 10 days off training because of a
respiratory problem. We don't want our athletes to be undertaking that sort of risk and so on the
prospect that they are putting themselves at risk, we have made a plan to be in Hong Kong so we're
close by, so that we can have them take a short trip, two or three days before their event, and not
have the risk of ending up with a respiratory problem and not being able to compete at their best.

KAREN BARLOW: The athletics competition isn't until the second week. Is it not possible for them to
nip over to Beijing and then come back?

MAX BINNINGTON: Originally, we had though that that was a possibility and when had a look at the
logistics of it, when some of them were trying to plan some trips, what we found is that in fact
the whole journey from Hong Kong into Beijing, in time to get their uniform, because our athletes
won't have their kit until they get into Beijing where that will all be done by the IOC, then spend
the day of the opening ceremony standing around, sitting around, marching, then to come back to
Hong Kong the next day would in fact take three days out of their training program.

Now, that close to the major of event of their life, we took the view, and all the coaches took the
view that this is not a smart thing to do.

KAREN BARLOW: The actual opening ceremony, the participation in the march, is actually a longwinded
event. I understand it goes for over eight hours from go to woe. Was that also factored into the
decision not to let the athletes take part?

MAX BINNINGTON: Yes, it was. But mostly in the sense that if an athlete was to travel in from Hong
Kong and spend that eight hours standing around, sitting around, going in the march, then getting
back, they would be getting back in the early hours of the morning. So therefore they wouldn't have
a goodnight sleep. That's going to affect their training over the next few days. And whilst for the
athletes it's actually a week before the athletics program starts, there would be no athlete or
coach who would plan in, I believe, a period of such disruption to their program, a week out from
their major event.

KAREN BARLOW: This must be very disappointing for some of the athletes, particularly the younger
ones who have never been to a Games before. What do you say to them?

MAX BINNINGTON: It's hugely disappointing. I would understand that totally.

But, in the end, they as individuals and our sport as a whole, is going to be measured on their
performances in the Games. So that's absolutely critical to them and to us. So, we understand their
disappointment, but in the longer-term, their memory of the event will be how well they did. If we
could have it in the perfect world, we would have them there marching, but it isn't the perfect
world, and as I said, in then end, that they will be measured by their success that they have at
the Games and that's what we are focused on.

ASHLEY HALL: Athletics Australia's national performance manager Max Binnington speaking there with
Karen Barlow.