Subject: For East Timorese, Sydney Olympic is a memory to cherish

For East Timorese, Sydney is a memory to cherish

By Paul Majendie

SYDNEY, Sept 30 (Reuters) - East Timor's tiny band of athletes had a poignant message to take back to their conflict ravaged homeland after meeting the world at the Olympics -- ``Come together and be happy.''

The quartet may not have won any medals but they made history. It was a richly symbolic moment to savour.

Just being in Sydney was an achievement after they lost all their belongings and equipment in the conflict.

Diminutive marathon runner Aguida Amaral came third last in the women's marathon but the stadium rose to acclaim her as a heroine.

``It has made me so happy to see countries from all over the world come together and be friends in Sydney,'' she told a news conference.

``I want to take that message back to East Timor, to the young people and tell them that we also can come together and be happy.''

Thrilled at meeting former Olympic sprint star Carl Lewis, she said: ``This is what the Olympics has been all about, meeting so many of the great athletes from all over the world. I am very happy.''

Weightlifter Martinho de Araujo had to use a bucket of concrete on each end of a pole to train when the equipment in his gym was stolen.

``Can you imagine what we could do if we had all the facilities the other countries had?'' he said.

Boxer Victor Ramos lasted only minutes in the Sydney ring but United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anan hailed his Olympic participation because it ``underscores the potential for peace in the world.''

Ramos, 30, fled to the mountains in in his homeland when pro-Indoensian militia launched a wave of killings.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year in a move never recognised by the United Nations.

It is now under temporary U.N. control and the United Nations said in July that elections and possible final independence could come by the end of 2001.

The four East Timorese athletes competed as independent athletes in Sydney. Although it gained independence from Indonesia last year, their homeland does not yet have an elected government or a national Olympic committee.

The East Timorese, given a rousing reception at the opening ceremony, were only the second team of independent athletes to participate in an Olympics. A squad from Yugoslavia were the first in 1992.

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