Australia's oldest Olympian inaugurates Village

SYDNEY, SEPT. 2. Longevity gave Edie Payne a rare honour in the evening of her life.

Australia's oldest Olympian who turns 94 on September 26, Edie held back her tears and gripped the scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon to formally declare open the Olympic Village on Saturday.

In the presence of the International Olympic Committee delegate Mr. Peter Miro and Village Mayor Mr. Graham Richardson besides a host of members from the world media, Edie inaugurated the village amidst cheers from most of those present.

Brought on wheel-chair, Edie later let the tears of joy flow once the brief ceremony was over and the photographers zoomed in to get a closer frame. ``It's been a great honour to be here among you all,'' was how Edie put it after a brief ceremony at the main entrance of the Village.

Edie, nee Robinson, took part in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam as Australia's first ever woman competitor in athletics. A sprinter, Edie made the semifinal of the 100m after undertaking a six-week travel to reach the Dutch Capital by ship. Later, on the persistence of her compatriots, Edie entered the 800m. This was Edie's first competition over 100m and faced elimination in the heats.

``My best in the 100m was 11 seconds then, and I remember the record stood for a long time,'' recalled Edie with pride during her very brief interaction with the mediapersons before turning her attention to close family members who accompanied her.

Though the Games open in another 13 days, Edie might have well set an Olympic record of sorts. She became the oldest Olympian ever to open an Olympic Village, which is the biggest in the history of the Games.

On what was the `First Athletes Day' at the village, nearly 3,000 athletes and officials were expected to check in. The Village will be home for over 15,000 people before the Opening Ceremony on September 15.

As hosts, the usually relaxed and laid-back, the locals are all geared up to give a memorable time to those who arrive for the Games. Thousands of volunteers have been going through extensive training for nearly a year now.

The frequent security drill has given the vast workforce, at various venues, several opportunities to tightened up. Now that the contingents have started arriving, the excitement is slowly beginning to rise.

The fun-loving Aussies, not particularly formal, have taken their time to respond to the challenge of playing host to 199 nations.

Though tickets to some of the more-watched disciplines, including athletics, are still available, the days leading to the commencement of the Games are likely to ensure a sellout.

However, at present, the chilly winds and intermittent drizzles have left the locals a little cold. But it is only a matter of time before the Games bring out the `kangaroos' hopping to the place of action.

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