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Stephen McDonell discusses the countdown to t -

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Stephen McDonell discusses the countdown to the Games

Broadcast: 07/08/2008

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

With the countdown to the Games nearing its conclusion Stephen McDonell talks to Leigh Sales about
the final preparations.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And for more on the countdown to the Olympics we are joined from Beijing by
ABC China correspondent Stephen McDonnell. Stephen you have just come from the official Australian
team meeting. I believe there was an important announcement?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL, CHINA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the whole of the Australian Olympic team was there,
along with a whole lot of other celebrities, including the Prime Minister for the announcement of
who would carry the flag into the stadium tomorrow night. It is 42-year-old rower James Tomkins,
he's been in a remarkable six Olympics, six in a row, starting in Seoul in '88, has won three gold
medals. So James Tomkins will carry the flag for Australia, he was excited about this, I can tell
you. A lot of the younger athletes also were quite star struck by the Prime Minister, they wanted
to have their photo taken with him, and also with Princess Mary, who was there as well. And at one
point I thought we better have a word to the Prime Minister, and I mentioned 'Lateline', so he did
have a few words with us. Here is some of what the Prime Minister had to say. What do you think
about the chances of the Australian team at the coming games?

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: They are a fantastic bunch of young people, I saw them at the village
today, all pumped up. I see more of them here tonight. They'll do Australia proud. But it's a
really tough competition. Really tough.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Do you have a prediction of how many gold medals.

KEVIN RUDD: It's called no pressure mate and I am not going to put pressure on them either.

LEIGH SALES: Stephen it's good to know the use of the 'Lateline' name gets access to the Prime
Minister. He's not just there for the Olympics though, he has other business under way as well
doesn't he?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: That's right, there's a series of meetings the Prime Minister will be having
with Chinese leaders. In fact, when he arrived today it was carried on Chinese television in a live
telecast, they had a reporter out there, you know, speaking about the fact that Lucoon, as he a
known here, he had arrived. He could be seen on the television screens across the country, coming
down off the Royal Australian Air Force plain and meeting local officials. He'll be having meetings
tomorrow with the Premier Wen Jiabao. Then tomorrow at lunchtime there's a banquet with all the
world leaders will be here in fact. A lot of world leaders have come for the Games. Then on
Saturday the Prime Minister will have a face to face meeting with President Hu.

LEIGH SALES: Stephen, obviously the excitement must be building there, this time tomorrow night
they'll light the Cauldron, is there any word as to who will be doing that?

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Well we've had, there's been rumours rife of who it will be. Now, hang on, I
have someone passed me this a second ago. I can look it up. One of our staff managed to find out on
the internet here that there is, Yun Ting, sorry, I lost his name here.

LEIGH SALES: Breaking news, it's always messy.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Breaking news, now, where is it? Where is it? A long time gymnast is expected
to, in fact, carry the flame at the end. In fact.

LEIGH SALES: We have pictures of him now actually Stephen.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: And light the cauldron and if I can find his name it would be good, wouldn't it,
you know.

LEIGH SALES: I don't know it either; I'll have to leave you dangling.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: How embarrassing, yes. Leave me dangling.

LEIGH SALES: That's alright. I'm sure we'll learn his name in due course and we just had a look at
some pictures of him anyway.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Especially if he ends up lighting the torch, that is.

LEIGH SALES: Indeed. Thanks very much for trying to get that for us Stephen. I'm sure we'll learn
it later in the program.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Good to talk to you.