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AOC president says relay is chance to spread Olympic ideals
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Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president John Coates said on Thursday that the relay was an opportunity to spread the ideals of the Olympics and hoped the torch relay would be smooth and safe.

"There's an amazing turnout here this morning," Coates told reporters at the starting point of the torch relay, the Reconciliation Place where the torch relay just started.

"We have a proud tradition, we've hosted the Games twice, the flame also came here before the Athens Olympics Games.

"I think for the Olympic movement it's an opportunity for us to share the Olympic ideals and spirit with the community," he said.

Coates' word was just echoed by many other torch bearers and local citizens.

Retired Olympian Matt Welsh said politics should not interrupt the relay. "I'm really looking forward to it, I'm very, very honoured," the former swimmer told reporters.

"The Olympics for an athlete is all about the competition, it's not about the politics. We leave that to the politicians.

"The torch relay is about harmony and something to celebrate throughout the world.

"This is a positive thing and hopefully everyone will understand that and realize it has nothing to do with other issues."

Another torch bearer, triple Olympic gold medallist, swimmer Jodie Henry, who won't be in the Beijing team because of injury, said the day was special.

"I'm surprised at how many people have turned out, it's amazing the turnout here," she told Seven Channel TV station.

Suzen Johnson, a teacher from a local high school, told Xinhua that the torch relay was a time to enjoy peace and happiness. She said she has been looking forward to this moment for quite a long time and wishes all the best to the torch relay and the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

(Xinhua News Agency April 24, 2008)

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