Melbourne, Jan 15 (AP) International and Australiansports stars began pitching in on the weekend to help reliefefforts in flood-ravaged Queensland state.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will headline a specialsold-out "Rally for Relief" exhibition event at Rod LaverArena in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the start of theAustralian Open.
The floodwaters that swamped entire neighborhoods inBrisbane, the state capital, left behind a thick layer ofputrid sludge and affected more than 30,000 homes. Weeks ofrain and flooding across Australia''s northeast have left 26people dead and 20 more are missing.Today, Federer said at an Australian Open mediaconference that he watched details of the flooding ontelevision while playing at a tournament in Qatar.
"When I saw it hit the city of Rockhampton, I right awaythought of Rod Laver," Federer said of Laver''s birthplace.
"I tried to reach out to him and see if he wanted to doanything, if he needed my help. Once I came down to Australia,I spoke to him ... I said ''this time we have more than 24hours'' notice, so we''ll be able to generate more money,especially in a country where we''re playing right at themoment.
"It''s very appropriate and a must for us to do somethingas a tennis family really. I''m really happy we''ve been able todo it again."
Last year, many top players including Federer and Nadalheld a similar charity exhibition for victims of the Haitiearthquake.
Players competing will also donate the shirts they worein the exhibition in a "Shirts off their Backs" auction thatis expected to raise thousands more for the flood appeal, andbuckets will be passed around during the event asking fordonations.
Today, Australian Open organisers held a "Kids are Free"day with entry a one or two dollar donation that will bepassed on to the flood appeal.
Meanwhile, Australian Associated Press reported thatAustralian NBA star Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks willauction off "The Bogut Experience" in a special bid to raisefunds for the flood victims.
Bogut''s package included two return flights to LosAngeles, two tickets to see Bogut''s Bucks play the defendingchampions Los Angeles Lakers and dinner with Bogut. MORE (AP)CM
Bogut said the key was raising awareness around the world.
"I''m trying to raise awareness not only in Australia, butin the world that this is a huge issue and Australia needs notonly Australia''s help, but the world''s help," he said.The Portland Trail Blazers will send a percentage ofBogut''s Australian teammate Patrick Mills'' jersey sales towardthe flood relief efforts.
"It is really tough knowing that your fellow Australiansare going through this and you''re over here (in America), youfeel helpless," Mills said. "What I''m trying to do is dowhatever I can to try and help out."
Players from at least four National Rugby League clubsplanned to fly north to help Brisbane and other areas clean upafter the massive floods that devastated the area.
The Parramatta Eels united with other western Sydneyclubs Penrith, Canterbury and Wests Tigers to aid the reliefeffort for those affected by the flooding. They will fly toBrisbane and be bused to the worst-affected areas.The Queensland Reds Super 15 rugby team used their homestadium at Ballymore as a medical triage base today. Peoplewith non-critical injuries from the floods were invited to seeteam doctors and other physicians for free.
"It''s inevitable that some people, including emergencyresponse personnel will require treatment for injuriessuffered as the result of wading through floodwaters and weexpect the normal rate of hospital presentations to increaseas a consequence," said Queensland''s chief health officer Dr.
In horse racing, one of Australia''s biggest carnivals,the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast, scaled back the racingprogram and instead concentrated on raising a "magic"1million for the flood victims.
Stud nominations for mares were donated and were to beauctioned at the Magic Millions final premium yearling saletoday night.
With the stallion nominations worth between27,000 and
100,000 each, proceeds from their auction were expected toadd at least250,000 to the fund''s total.
A minute''s silence was scheduled to be observed beforethe main race of the day today afternoon in a tribute to thevictims of the disaster. (AP) CM