Sydney is happy to go through it all again

Athens will host the 2004 Paralympics despite delays in signing the contract with the International Paralympics Committee, Greek officials said yesterday, as Sydney welcomed the first competitors for this year's Games.

Athens will host the 2004 Paralympics despite delays in signing the contract with the International Paralympics Committee, Greek officials said yesterday, as Sydney welcomed the first competitors for this year's Games.

"We believe that we should be able to find in good faith the optimal solution to the various problems and finally sign the contract," Athens 2004 organisers said in a statement. The IPC president, Robert Steadward, had said earlier that the flag could not be handed over to Athens because the contract had not been ratified.

The assistant chef de mission for the Greek Paralympic team in Sydney, Panagiotis Papakonstantopoulos, told reporters the IPC had changed details of the contract which may have contributed to the signing delay.

Steadward said he did not want athletes in Athens to pay a participation fee, as is the case for the Sydney Games which begin on 18 October .

The Sydney Olympic village returned to life yesterday as the Paralympic village, with the arrival of 2,670 athletes from 69 countries. Squads ranged from the high-profile United States team to smaller delegations from Mauritania and Armenia. The village has been reconfigured with wheelchair and prosthetic repair shops in place.

The first woman to represent Australia at the Paralympics in 1960, Daphne Hilton, officially opened the village yesterday.

Hilton, 67, won 15 medals over three Games in swimming, archery and athletics.

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