Abe flags dawn of new era

Fifty years after Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser took part in the theft of a flag from the Emperor's palace in Tokyo, the Japanese Prime Minister has made clear there are no hard feelings.

In his historic address to Parliament yesterday, Shinzo Abe joked that he hoped he would see Ms Fraser at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Speaking directly to Ms Fraser, who was in the public gallery for the address, Mr Abe said he hoped the former swimmer would be in "good shape" for the 2020 Olympics.

"I hope very much that you bring forth a new dawn to Japan and a new dawn to the future of Australia and Japan relations," Mr Abe said.

During the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Ms Fraser was arrested by Japanese police for stealing an Olympic flag outside Emperor Hirohito's palace, one of the most sacred sites in Japan.

She was released after the police realised who she was.

But the Australian Swimming Union banned her for 10 years for the escapade and for her refusal to wear the correct team uniform at the Games opening ceremony.

Ms Fraser says the police later gave her the flag and she auctioned it in 2007 for $75,000.

The swimmer took the Swimming Union to court and overturned the ban on her swimming.

Ms Fraser said she had been invited to attend Parliament by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

She said it was a great honour to be mentioned by the Japanese leader.

"He's a lovely Prime Minister with a lovely sense of humour," Ms Fraser said.

The West Australian

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