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Monday, May 29, 2000
SOCOG cuts Fiji from torch relay

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Sydney 2000 Olympics organizers on Monday cut Fiji from the Olympic torch relay route.

 The June 3 relay leg had been in jeopardy since May 19 when armed rebels stormed the Pacific nation's parliament and took hostage the prime minister and members of his cabinet.

 The political coup has escalated in the capital of Suva, forcing SOCOG to drop plans to carry the torch through Fiji as part of a 13-nation Oceania section of the relay.

 "The security of our torch is uppermost, and as there is no guarantee their safety can be safeguarded, we have decided to cancel the relay in Fiji," said Olympics Minister Michael Knight, who announced the decision after consulting with Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer.

 "We previously wanted to leave a final decision until Wednesday. However, ... in the wake of the deteriorating situation in Fiji, we believe there is no other option but to cancel the leg."

 The Olympic flame and torch relay staff would stay two days in Tonga before flying to New Zealand as scheduled on June 5, he said.

 Knight said the decision had no implications for Fijian athletes qualified to compete at the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics.

 "No matter what the nature of governments in any of the 200 countries which the IOC has invited to the Games, their athletes are welcome to participate," he said.
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