Most British athletes to shun Rio opening ceremony

By Alan Baldwin RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Most of Britain's Olympic athletes will stay away from Friday's opening ceremony for the Rio Games at the Maracana Stadium, team officials said on Monday. "It will be a fairly small delegation of athletes marching," British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Bill Sweeney told reporters at the Olympic Park in Barra. "We've got a big crew still up in Belo Horizonte training and athletes who are competing 24 or 48 hours after the opening ceremony. "So we expect the marching athletes to be in the region of about 55 or so. Given the fact that we've got a total team size of 366, it's quite a small number but their priorities are on competition." British team head Mark England expected golfer Justin Rose and tennis player Andy Murray, the 2012 Olympic champion, to be among those who did attend the ceremony. TeamGB is hoping for the country's best away Games, with a target of at least 48 medals -- one more than Beijing in 2008. Brazil's interim president, Michel Temer, will declare the first Games held in South America open on Friday after the televised ceremony that culminates with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. In London four years ago, the ceremony -- a highlight of the Games with at times surreal routines and thousands of athletes marching in behind their national flags -- attracted an estimated global television audience of 900 million. In Beijing, the opening ceremony was watched by 1.2 billion. The athletes' village in Barra is some 30 km (18 miles) from the stadium, meaning that those attending the ceremony may face a two-hour round trip and plenty of standing around before returning in the early hours. Competition starts immediately the next morning, with rowing heats and shooting at 7:30 a.m. and cycling providing the first medal with the men's road race. Swimming also has a packed programme. Other leading nations are also expected to have only a limited attendance at the ceremony, with Australia expecting nearly two thirds of their 410 strong contingent to stay away. "Everyone is used to a really big Australian team coming in but we will have an alternate ceremony in the village which will actually be bigger than the real ceremony," Australian delegation head Kitty Chiller said last month. "We will do something special in the village. The athletes will get dressed up, we will march around the village and do something there." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams)

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