Olympic Games: New timetable gives Jones the chance of five gold medals

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The Independent Online
MARION JONES' hopes of going for five gold medals at the Sydney Olympics received a boost when the International Amateur Athletic Federation finally approved the athletics programme for next year's Games.

The 23-year-old American sprint queen, recovering after back spasms forced her to withdraw from the World Championships in Seville last month, aims to go for gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m, 4x400m and long jump.

There were fears there would not be enough rest time between the long jump and sprint finals for Jones to go for five titles. But the IAAF has announced that a rest day has been incorporated between the qualification rounds and finals of jumping events.

The IAAF and SOCOG, the Games' organising committee, also agreed to allow at least one rest day between the heats and finals of races exceeding 800m and in the 400m hurdles. The decision means 11 Olympic athletics finals will be moved to different days.

IAAF technical delegates shocked SOCOG in July by announcing they required a day's break between the semi-finals and finals of any event of 400m or longer, with two days break for races of 3,000m or more. This ran contrary to the policy for previous Games.

The most significant of the 11 finals to be moved is the 1,500m, which will now take place on day 14 of the Games, one day earlier than scheduled.

Other events where the date of the final has changed are the men's and women's 400m hurdles and discus, the men's steeplechase and the women's 800m, 5,000m, 10,000m, shot put and hammer throw. The athletics programme will start on 22 September, will incorporate a rest day on September 26 and ends on 1 October.

IAAF president, Primo Nebiolo, said: "This schedule protects the rights of the athletes to compete at the highest level without incurring any risks to their health, while offering spectators a balanced distribution of finals throughout the nine days of competition."

Thousands of Sydney residents celebrated at downtown Darling Harbour yesterday during a 16-hour day of festivities to mark one year to the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics.

Darling Harbour will be the site of Olympic volleyball, weightlifting, boxing, wrestling, fencing and judo. Crowds watched demonstrations of those sports and met athletes from many of the 28 sports to be contested next year in between live entertainment.

In the evening, a live link was made to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, officially inviting the athletes of the world to compete in Sydney next year. The invitation for the host nation was handed to seven-year-old Erin Hetherington, from Albany, Australia, who had won an art competition with her drawing of an Olympic torch bearer riding across Australia on an emu.

In Canberra, a meeting of 60 indigenous leaders convened by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) decided not to jeopardise the success of the Games next year through protest action. "Basically, because we're a sport-loving people ourselves, we want to be at the Games, we want a successful Games, we want to see Cathy Freeman reach her full potential and get a gold medal," said Lowitja O'Donoghue, the former ATSIC chairwoman.

Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation chairwoman Evelyn Scott said the success of Australian athletes was paramount. "We're not about to jeopardise the livelihood of our Australian athletes be they indigenous or non-indigenous," she said. "They've worked all their lives for this, to win gold in their own country."