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  • Commonwealth Games, Australia Off To Flying Start


    03/17/06

    Stephanie Rice was the surprise winner of the 200m Individual Medley on the first night in the pool, taking out gold over Aussie teammates Brooke Hanson (silver) and Lara Carroll (bronze). www.melbourne2006.com.au 
    (ATR) The Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia and the host nation's medal tally are both off to a flying start.

    After just two days of competition, Australia has opened a massive lead in the medal tally with a total of 29 - 12 gold, nine silver and eight bronze.

    Closest rival India is way behind on four gold and three silver, with Canada, England and Scotland making up the top five nations. You can see the full medals table here.

    Earlier this week, the Games got off to a true flying start amid the fanfare of the opening ceremony.

    Melbourne's legendary tram, decked out with wings, and the Australia's koala both took a mid-air role in the Wednesday night ceremony, capped off with a performance by Australian pop performer Delta Goodrem.

    Troubled ticket sales were forgotten as close to 80,000 people packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground and an estimated audience of 1.5 billion tuned in on television to watch.

    Dignitaries during the Games opening ceremony included the Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister John Howard, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and Prince Edward.

    But the spectre of a doping scandal at the Games remains with a cloud reportedly hanging over the Australian weightlifting team after the discovery of drugs paraphernalia ? including syringes and vials of liquid ? in a room previously occupied by a team member.

    Scientists have been testing the vials as a matter of urgency to determine if they contain illegal drugs, Fairfax newspapers report.

    The new Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has been brought into the case alongside Australian Institute of Sport staff so that it can be on the ground floor for an investigation if the substances prove to be banned drugs.

    Meanwhile, a Melbourne Court has been told the masseur with India's Commonwealth Games team accused of assaulting a teenage girl in the Games village will contest charges against him.

    Police allege Dewan Nabi assaulted a 16-year-old cleaner in his room at the Games' athletes village in inner suburban Parkville on Monday morning.

    The 35-year-old man has been charged with one count of unlawful assault and one of indecent assault on Tuesday and today made his second court appearance.

    Magistrate Paul Smith adjourned the matter for a two day contested hearing in April and extended Nabi's bail. Nabi, who has a government job back in India, has had his passport confiscated and he is s
    A view from above the Yarra River and MCG of the amazing fireworks show. www.melbourne2006.com.au 
    uspended from team duties.

    There was also a healthy dose of petty politics - or perhaps lingering bitterness - in the lead up to the event with Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker has ignored Commonwealth Games protocol and wiped AOC member Phil Coles from the guest list.

    Unsuccessful attempts folowed to have Walker reconsider his decision, which had also forced IOC president Jacques Rogge to pull the plug on his planned visit to the Commonwealth Games.

    Tension between Walker and Coles stems back to Melbourne's failed bid to host the 1996 Olympics. Walker accused Coles of sabotaging the campaign.

    Coles has received no support from his own NOC on the issue. "The AOC believes this is a personal matter between Ron Walker and Phil Coles," it said in a statement.

    A record 4,500 competitors will take part in the Games from 71 countries.

    The Games, which run until March 26, are the 18th to be held and the fourth staged in Australia.

    The Melbourne 2006 Sports Program comprises 12 individual and four team sports, with a total of 24 disciplines to be contested at the XVIII Commonwealth Games.

    Reported from Australia by Anthony Stavrinos.

    Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com.