Queen sees site of Olympic opening to which she has not been invited

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The Independent Online

"Welcome to Stadium Australia, your Olympic stadium" is the usual message greeting visitors to the main arena for the Sydney games. Yesterday, just before the arrival of the Queen, it was amended to read: "Welcome to Stadium Australia, the Olympic stadium".

"Welcome to Stadium Australia, your Olympic stadium" is the usual message greeting visitors to the main arena for the Sydney games. Yesterday, just before the arrival of the Queen, it was amended to read: "Welcome to Stadium Australia, the Olympic stadium".

Administrators rememberedthat the games are a bit of a sore point for Her Majesty. Protocol dictates that she, as the Australian head of state, should preside over the opening ceremony in September. But she has not been invited.

John Howard, the Prime Minister, is a diehard monarchist who helped engineer the defeat of November's republican referendum, yet even he recognises that most Australians would not countenance the Queen of England officiating at the showpiece event.

Mr Howard had planned to open the games himself. Then, after the referendum, he gave way to Sir William Deane, the Governor General, regarded as a compromise figure.

Still, the Queen could not leave Sydney without seeing the acclaimed Olympic facilities. So yesterday, in pouring rain, she visited the Superdome, the Aquatic Centre and the 110,000-seat Stadium Australia, where the opening and closing ceremonies will take place.

No impartial observers were close enough to see whether there was a wistful expression on Her Majesty's face as she stood in the stadium, yards from where the Olympic torch will be lit, surveying the track and the sea of seats. But among the 50 or so bedraggled monarchistsoutside, few thought she should open the games. "She's a foreign head of state," said one middle-aged woman.

Meanwhile, a large vat of cheese may have to be destroyed because the Duke of Edinburgh refused to wear a protective hairnet and coat while inspecting a cheese-making laboratory at an agricultural school in Wagga Wagga, 300 miles south-west of Sydney.

The laboratory manager, Barry Lillywhite, said afterwards that the vat was probably contaminated. He also expressed concern about a sniffer dog in the sterile area.

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