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Olympic dinner raises $2m for Australians
Carl Dickens
22:46 AEST Sat Jun 23 2012

Julia Gillard's notable absence from her own lavish Olympic fundraiser didn't stop the champagne flowing as Australia's London-bound athletes won a $2 million boost.

The sold-out Prime Minister's Olympic Dinner in Melbourne on Saturday saw 124 tables snapped up for $25,000 each, with the record proceeds going to support the country's 400 athletes competing at next month's Games.

Ms Gillard, who was flying home from the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro during the event, told the snappily-dressed crowd in a brief video message that Olympians were a prime example of Australians who worked hard and did the right thing, and always made their country proud.

"At every Games our athletes give their best, carrying the hopes of their families and friends, of sponsors and donors, and of the whole Australian community," she said.

Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates, who criticised Ms Gillard in April for not clearing her schedule for the event, addressed the crowd before asking them to raise their glasses: "to the Queen of Australia".

He said the country's support for its Olympians had come a long way since the first London Olympics 1908, where our athletes paid their own way and had no organisation backing them.

The British press even mocked the Australians for looking "impoverished and out of place" at the opening ceremony, as track and field athletes marched in competition singlets, shorts and runners, while swimmers and divers marched in swimwear, Mr Coates said.

Deputy PM Wayne Swan told reporters on the red carpet Ms Gillard "would have loved to have been here" at the event, which emcee Eddie McGuire described as "corporate Australia's salute to the Olympic ideal".

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the function was "a marvellous opportunity to show support for those who will be doing us proud in London".

Australian Olympic team chief Nick Green said the fundraiser gave athletes a much-needed boost.

"Athletes put careers and relationships on hold to chase their Olympic dream," he said.

"Most struggle to put petrol in the car and food on the table and support like this is an enormous help financially but it also lifts their spirits because they know Australia is with them."

Former PMs Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating were among other VIPs at the function who mingled with Olympic royalty including Dawn Fraser, Susie O'Neill, Kieren Perkins and Alisa Camplin.

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Opening Ceremony
Archery
Athletics
Badminton
Basketball
Beach Volleyball
Boxing
BMX
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Football
Gymnastics
Handball
Hockey
Judo
Modern Pentathlon
Rowing/Canoe/Kayak
Sailing
Shooting
Swimming
Synchro
Table Tennis
Taekwondo
Tennis
Triathlon
Volleyball
Water Polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling
Closing ceremony
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