Smallest Olympic team since 1976
World-class table-tennis player Werner Schlager gets dressed for the Olympics at the Vienna Hilton. Foto: apa
The team will be made up of 32 female and 40 male athletes. The list was announced by the ÖOC in Vienna on Monday. The squad for the 2004 Olympics in Athens comprised a total of 74 athletes.
The 72 athletes will form the smallest Austrian team to be sent to the Olympics since Montreal in 1976.
The Committee’s executi- ves made their final deci- sion on Sunday night, after lengthy discussions about the nominations. Eventual- ly, some athletes who have not reached the ÖOC’s qualification requirements were nominated, while there were some surprise omissions.
Tennis youngster Tamira Paszek does not appear on the list of nominees, al- though Austria had one free ticket in the tournament’s starting field. Top steeple- chaser Andrea Mayr will miss the Olympics after having given up her hopes for the Olympics at the Luzern meeting last week.
The Austrian athletes will take part in 14 of the total of 28 sports covered in the games that will take place from 8 to 24 August in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
The ÖOC also announced that double gold-winning sailor Hans Peter Stei- nacher will be the Austrian flag bearer at the opening ceremony. He had won Olympic gold in the Tor- nado class in 2000 and 2004 together with Roman Hagara. This year, the sailor is a favourite for the title again and could become part of Austrian sports his- tory with his third gold medal.
Human rights factor
The 2008 Olympics have already been a highly controversial issue worldwi- de. Host country China fa- ces massive criticism over their alleged human rights violations. Several Euro- pean politicians openly dis- cussed a boycott of the games or at least of the opening ceremony. The Austrian government’s po- sition has not always been clear.
Chancellor Alfred Gusen- bauer has pointed out the importance of the human rights issue, but always called for a united European approach.