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Badminton kicks off Commonwealth Games action

Shuttlers from Singapore and South Africa got the sporting action underway after Queen Elizabeth II had officially opened the event.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 19:02 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Shuttlers from Singapore and South Africa got the Commonwealth Games sporting action underway here on Thursday after Queen Elizabeth II had officially opened the event at a glittering ceremony.

Eleven medals are up for grabs onThursday with much of the focus on the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre where Australia and South Africa will battle for honours in the opening swimming events.

Gold will be won in the women's 200m freestyle, men's 400m freestyle, women's 200m individual medley, men's 200m butterfly and men's 4x100m freestyle.

Australia's Libby Lenton and South Africa's world record-breaking freestyle relay team are the headline attractions.

Lenton lines up in the 200m freestyle to launch her bid for a record seven gold medals, while the super-confident South Africans want to kick-start their Games with a psychological victory in the men's 4x100m freestyle.

Lenton, who smashed the 100m freestyle world record in the Games trials here last month, has an exhausting Games schedule of 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m butterfly and three relays.

If she wins all seven events it would eclipse the six golds won by Ian Thorpe at Manchester, Australian Susie O'Neill at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games and Canadian Graham Smith at the 1978 Edmonton Games.

Elsewhere, the host nation will be looking to get their Games off to a scintillating start in the cycling with podium finishes, although they face a tough challenge from Scotland and England.

The women's 500m time trial, men's 1,000m time trial and men's 4,000m individual pursuit will be decided.

Other medals up for grabs are in weightlifting and gymnastics.

Rugby Sevens, basketball, hockey, lawn bowls, squash and table tennis events also get underway.

But it was the Singaporean pair of Francis Fan Liu and Aaron Tan who were the first sports stars in action, winning their mixed doubles preliminary round clash with South Africa.

On Wednesday evening, the 12-day Games were officially declared open by the queen who received the Queen's baton, which had travelled over 180,000 kilometres and visited all 71 competing nations.

The Games are being held amid one of Australia's largest ever security operations with some 2,500 heavily armed military personnel and 13,000 police protecting venues and participants.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 19:02 IST