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Wednesday, October 18
East Timor's tiny team gets warm welcome

SYDNEY, Australia -- When senior constable Barry Parrish inspected the luggage of East Timor's tiny delegation to the Paralympics, he was surprised by what he saw. There was little more than some old clothes.

Alcino Pereira
Alcino Pereira, 58, stretches before a training session in Dili, East Timor. Alcino, who is mentally challenged, is one of two athletes representing East Timor in the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
The four East Timorese -- a runner, a power-lifter and two officials -- carried none of the sophisticated equipment of some of their rivals in the 12-day competition and only very limited training gear.

Parrish went to work to get the team some proper outfits and equipment before the games began Wednesday with a gala opening ceremony for some 4,000 athletes from 121 nations at Stadium Australia.

Parrish immediately telephoned a friend who owns a clothes shop and, after he returned home from the Paralympic Accreditation Center, spent hours phoning potential equipment and clothing donors.

"I had excellent response. I did not have one person that said no," he said, noting businesses donated underwear, sweaters, tweed jackets, pants, ties and shoes.

The East Timorese participants could not be contacted Wednesday, but Parrish said they had expressed gratitude through a translator.

Last month, four East Timor athletes competed in Sydney at the Summer Olympics as independent athletes, wearing plain white uniforms and marching behind the flag of the International Olympic Committee.

The athletes were invited by the IOC to represent their year-old nation even though East Timor does not yet have a recognized national Olympic committee. They were greeted with thunderous applause when they marched in the Olympic opening ceremony and later at competitions.

The International Paralympic Committee made a similar invitation.

East Timor's economy is in ruins after centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 25 years under Indonesian control, which ended with a referendum for independence last year.

Hundreds of people died during rampages by anti-independence militias in East Timor after the vote. Shops, market and sporting facilities were destroyed in the upheaval until a multinational peacekeeping force restored stability to most of the former Indonesian province.


Paralympics open in a blaze of light

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