Subject: AFP: Olympics hold no fears for East Timorese survivors

Also: JP: Indon Athletes told to ignore politics at Olympics

Agence France Presse August 14, 2000, Monday

Olympics hold no fears for East Timorese survivors DARWIN, Australia, Aug 14

East Timorese boxer Cesar Pinto is unlikely to be frightened by anybody he might meet in the ring during the Olympic Games.

A four-round bout pales into insignificance compared with the fear he experienced at home one night 13 months ago in Dili, when he was woken by five masked militiamen who ransacked the house as he pleaded for his and his elderly mother's life.

"They stormed in and shoved guns in our faces and said if we did not get out we would be killed," the 21 year-old recalled Monday.

Next door more militia were spraying the house of Pinto's friend Jaime Lay -- a weightlifter -- with bullets as Lay's mother sobbed outside.

Only when the gunmen were distracted by the sound of gunfire elsewhere in the village, could the four flee into the nearby jungle.

Behind them their homes including all their worldly possessions were burnt to the ground.

They spent the following weeks hiding in the jungle, avoiding the militia and their bullets on a daily basis.

"You could see and hear gun shots -- pop, pop, pop -- from very early in the morning until long after the sun went down," said Lay, also aged 21.

"They just killed so many people for no reason."

It was not until the first UN troops arrived in Dili last September that the four, along with hundreds of other East Timorese, emerged from the jungle.

Now three boxers, three marathon runners, two weightlifters and a taekwondo fighter are training at the Northern Territory Institute of Sport in Darwin, north Australia, aiming to represent their new nation in Sydney.

Each of the nine hopefuls has their own story to tell.

"I was hiding in some bushes in the jungle. I saw some of my friends killed," said taekwondo fighter Uthoc Flaminggo.

Another boxer Rogerio Soares said he was targeted because the gunmen knew he could fight.

"The militia came looking for us boxers. They were on a mission to kill us," he said.

For others the painful memories are still too much too bear.

"I can't speak about what happened. It is too hard," said marathon runner Calisto da Costa.

But the athletes are relishing the opportunity of living and training in relative opulence under the International Olympic Committee's Solidarity Scholarship.

"The facilities in Australia are wonderful," said Victor Ramos, a bozer who sports a four-centimetre (two-inch) bullet wound on his left abdomen.

"In East Timor now there is nothing. No equipment to train with because the militia burned it all."

Only four of the East Timorese will be able to fulfil their dream of competing in Sydney. The lucky few, who will be selected later this month, will have the honour of representing the 2000 Games' youngest nation.


JP: Indon Athletes told to ignore politics at Olympics

THE JAKARTA POST August 16, 2000 Athletes told to ignore politics at Olympics JAKARTA (JP): State Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mahadi Sinambela urged national athletes to keep focusing on the Olympic Games training program and ignore the possibility of political problems at the Olympics in Sydney next month.

"Don't worry about politics. There are no more anti-Indonesian groups in Australia," he said after attending an awards ceremony at the State Palace on Tuesday.

Mahadi said several months ago, athletes might be worried about the East Timor issue that threatened the diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and Australia.

"Now we no longer have East Timor problems. So there won't be any anti-Indonesian demonstrations in Sydney. The demos occurred in Jakarta instead," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

Mahadi believes national athletes can train and compete at maximum performance levels if non-technical problems and distractions are kept at bay. Speaking on Olympic targets, Mahadi said they would be difficult for him to realize because the contingent chef de mission must stay informed of other countries' strengths.

"I hope badminton and weightlifting can contribute medals for Indonesia as our athletes have a great chance in both sports," he said. Indonesia will send 45 athletes from 11 sports to the Sept. 16 to Oct. 1 quadrennial event.

President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri presented 18 awards.

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