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Australian Institute of Sports, Canberra: Ceremony for day one of the Paralympic Torch Relay: 5th October 2000

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Jackie Kelly, Minister for Sport and Tourism Ceremony for Day One of the Paralympic Torch Relay, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra 5th October 2000

I'm delighted to be here this morning on the first day of the Paralympic Torch Relay as it makes its way to Sydney to ignite the flame of the first Paralympic Games of this millennium.

And I'm proud to say that the Federal Government has provided support to enable the Torch to visit other States and Territories around Australia. This initiative will really help Australians to share in the spirit of the Paralympic Games.

If courage, strength and perseverance is the stuff that sport is made of, well, we have these qualities to spare in the Paralympics.

We are now in a golden era of Australian Paralympic sport. Maybe all our stars aren't yet household names. But they're definitely stars!

The Australian Institute of Sport has been instrumental in the success of our Paralympians, offering the first AIS scholarship to a disabled athlete back in 1989.

We're probably all familiar with the medal tally at the 1996 Summer Paralympics. Australia came second on the medal ladder with an incredible haul of 106 - 42 gold, 37 silver and 27 bronze.

Of those medals, AIS athletes won 60 per cent of the gold, 31 per cent of the silver, and 20 per cent of the bronze.

And at the Atlanta Paralympics, AIS athletes set an incredible ten world records.

This year, Australia will send our biggest and best-prepared teams ever to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Our team at Sydney will be about 425 strong - including 275 athletes and 150 support staff. And for the first time, Australia will compete in all 18 sports on the Paralympic program.

I'm proud to say that the Australian Government has provided unprecedented support for the Paralympics. All up, the Commonwealth has underwritten the cost of staging the Paralympics by about $35 million.

We've provided almost $6.5 million for the preparation of the Paralympic Team for Sydney.

We've also provided almost $1 million to cover the entry fees, registration and uniforms for all of Australia's Paralympians.

I'd like to take this opportunity wish all the athletes here this morning - both the Australian hosts and our guests - the best of success for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Thank you.

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