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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 8, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The Sydney 2000 Olympic torch will pass through 14 Pacific island countries and territories before arriving in Australia to open the 2000 Olympic Summer Games.

Fiji’s National Olympic Committee Secretary General, Vidya Lakhan, said the countries of Oceania are indebted to the Australian Government for making the historic Pacific Islands region even possible.

"It will be a milestone in the history of these Pacific Island nations, especially Fiji, that the Olympic torch passes through our soil.

"Our sons and daughters will get a chance to hold the torch," Lakhan told journalists in Suva today.

The torch is scheduled to leave Greece May 22, 2000 and to arrive in Guam May 23 to begin its Pacific leg.

The National Olympic Committee is calling for interested athletes, national leaders and young people to be torchbearers for the Fiji leg, the third last leg of the journey.

The torch relay will begin in Guam, and pass through Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand en route to Sydney.

The Australian Government will pay US$ 1.9 million for the Oceania leg of the torch relay.

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