Queen attacked in official Olympic programme

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The Independent Online

Organisers of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, have been criticised by monarchists for including an attack on the Queen in the event's official programme.

Organisers of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, have been criticised by monarchists for including an attack on the Queen in the event's official programme.

The souvenir, which went on nationwide sale today, incudes an essay by ardent republican writer Robert Hughes calling the decision to keep the Queen as head of state "ludicrous".

According to reports, monarchist campaigners are furious with the Olympic organisers and are demanding that the programme be withdrawn.

Mr Hughes, an Australian now living in New York, criticises the result of last year's referendum, which saw 55 per cent of Australians vote to keep the Queen as head of state.

He said the result "shows moments of folly, weakness and irresoluteness" adding: "It seems ludicrous to me that anyone should believe that there is not one person among more than 19 million Australians now alive who is fit to be head of state."

The Australian Monarchist League, now known as Monarchy 2000, said: "It is a disgrace that this has been done."

Philip Benwell, the group's national chairman, said: "We have taken exception to this not because Hughes has made these comments - it is his right to express his views - but because the organising committee have used the platform of the games to incorporate comments which are essentially promoting a republic."

Monarchy 2000 has written to John Howard, the Australian prime minister, senior Olympic officials and MPs expressing its anger at the inclusion of the article.

A spokesman for the Sydney Organising Committee of the Olympic Games declined to comment and said it was a matter for programme producers Sports Illustrated, one of the sponsors of the Games.

But he said it was "unfeasible" for the programmes to be withdrawn as 400,000 had already been posted to advance ticketholders.

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