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Thursday, August 31, 2000
Laos sends more officials than athletes to Sydney

 VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) -- Known for its top-heavy Communist bureaucracy, Laos is sending more officials than athletes to the Sydney Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee paying the bill.

 Seven government officials will be heading to Australia to oversee a swimmer and two runners, none of whom stands a realistic chance to capture a medal.

 "We don't expect any of our athletes to win. All we want is for them to beat their personal best and prepare for the Southeast Asian Games," said Kasem Inthara, deputy secretary general of the Lao National Olympic Committee. The next regional games will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2001.

 If participation in the Olympics was solely based on ability, no Laotian would be going to Sydney. But the Australian Olympic Organizing Committee extended Laos the right to send three athletes, without regard to qualifications.

 The trio are the country's best 100-meter sprinter, Vongphakdy Sisomphone, 23; freestyle swimmer Sikhounxay Ounkhamphanyavong, 18, and women's marathoner Sirivanh Ketavong, 27, who placed 62nd in a field of 80 at the 1996 Olympics.

 One of Asia's poorest nations, Laos has suffered years of war and mismanagement of the economy by a secretive Communist party. There's little in the government coffer for sports.

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