Swine flu fears hit Games

BELGRADE - The 25th World Student Games opened yesterday in Serbia, the biggest sporting event ever held in the Balkan state, where preparations have been overshadowed by swine flu fears.

BELGRADE - The 25th World Student Games opened yesterday in Serbia, the biggest sporting event ever held in the Balkan state, where preparations have been overshadowed by swine flu fears.

About 10000 athletes, coaches and other officials from 140 countries, as well as hundreds of international journalists, have been descending on Belgrade for the 12-day event, organisers said.

The largest delegations, with about 500 members each, are from China, Russia and the US, which said this week that at least 1million of its people have had swine flu this year.

Security will be provided by 6000 police officers, and organisers will be helped by more than 10000 volunteers, mostly local youths but also around 500 foreigners.

That has raised concerns among health authorities of a wider swine flu outbreak in Serbia, which has already reported 11 cases of its own citizens infected with the deadly A(H1N1) virus in the past few days.

Belgrade's sparkling new University Village housing athletes features a quarantine clinic, and every suspected case will be isolated there for six hours while laboratory tests are done.

Serbia set a budget of up to about R876 million to hold the event, 60percent of it spent on upgrading neglected sports facilities in the capital and mainly northern cities and towns, including Novi Sad.

Sports include archery, artistic gymnastics, athletics, basketball, diving, fencing, football, gymnastics, judo, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and water polo.

The main star of the athletics competition is Portugal's 2008 Olympics triple-jump champion Nelson Evora, who won the 2007 world championships with the second best jump ever of 17,74m. - AFP

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