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Originally published Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 6:06 AM

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Beckham, Thorpe join sports stars at royal wedding

While sports icons David Beckham and Ian Thorpe join the celebrities and dignitaries inside Westminster Abbey for Friday's royal wedding, cricketers and snooker players will be trying to ignore the hoopla and carry on with their jobs as usual.

AP Sports Writer

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LONDON —

While sports icons David Beckham and Ian Thorpe join the celebrities and dignitaries inside Westminster Abbey for Friday's royal wedding, cricketers and snooker players will be trying to ignore the hoopla and carry on with their jobs as usual.

Just when Kate Middleton arrives at the abbey for her marriage to Prince William, the first ball will be bowled - weather permitting - in the third day of the county cricket match between Middlesex and Surrey at Lord's, a short underground ride away in northwest London.

By that time, play will have been under way in the televised second session of the first semifinal of snooker's world championship, featuring Judd Trump of England and Ding Junhui of China, in the northern English city of Sheffield.

The union of Kate and William, who is the president of England's Football Association and a patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, will have a sporting flavor of its own.

Beckham became close to William last year when the pair worked together during England's failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The former England captain is taking a short break from the Los Angeles Galaxy to attend the wedding, but will fly back to the United States on Saturday morning in time to play for the Major League Soccer club.

With royal wedding fever big in Australia, Thorpe - one of the country's biggest sports stars - made the exclusive guest list.

The multiple Olympic swimming gold medalist met William for the first time last year, according to Australian media. The prince has since supported Thorpe's charitable organization - the Fountain for Youth - which focuses on improving health and education for children.

The British government is predicting a global television audience of 2 billion for the royal wedding. Trump, snooker's new sensation, won't be tuning in.

"It's not too much of a disappointment to miss it," he said.

Friday is a national holiday for the wedding, but cricket and snooker have refused to change their schedules for the occasion.

"It was never a consideration to cancel the fixture," Middlesex spokesman Steven Fletcher told The Associated Press. "It was more a case of embracing the royal wedding than anything else. We are actually hoping for a bumper crowd."

To satisfy royal enthusiasts, Middlesex will show the wedding on giant screens around the ground as part of the club's Royal Wedding Street Party celebrations - allowing spectators to watch Kate and William exchange vows while hearing the thwack of cricket bats echo around one of Britain's most famous sporting venues.

The popularity of snooker has slightly dipped in recent years in Britain but the highly anticipated semifinal between Trump and Ding, two of the sport's rising stars, has captured the imagination of fans and provides armchair viewers with a dilemma.

The BBC will provide live coverage of the wedding on its primary channel, BBC1, while the snooker will be shown live on BBC2 and on Eurosport.

"It will be interesting to see what the viewing figures are like," World Snooker spokesman Ivan Hirschowitz said. "We're fairly confident we'll keep our viewers."

Ding is one of the biggest sporting names in China, behind NBA star Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang. Ding's match against Trump will be aired on the state television sports channel in China, where the royal wedding is not a major event for average Chinese.

Trevor Brooking is another member of the soccer fraternity invited to the wedding. The ex-England and West Ham midfielder is now an FA director.

England rugby player Mike Tindall will marry Zara Phillips - Queen Elizabeth II's eldest granddaughter - on July 30. He'll attend the royal wedding along with Wales flanker Martyn Williams and England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw turned down an invite because of club duties with the Crusaders, and Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll also will skip the ceremony to attend a training session with Leinster before European Cup match against French giant Toulouse on Saturday.

"As big an honor as it was to be invited, I can't ask for team runs to be at 6:30 in the evening so I can go to the wedding," O'Driscoll told British newspaper The Guardian. "It's going to be an incredible thing, with 2 billion watching, but I'll be at home preparing for Toulouse."

Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who rode Long Run to success in both the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year, will be present. After all, it was at a party hosted by Waley-Cohen at his family home in 2007 that William and Kate rekindled their romance after they had split for a short while.

Horse racing will be in full action Friday afternoon, hours after the ceremony.

Four of the five meets - Doncaster, Fontwell, Bangor-on-Dee and Leicester - have their racedays dedicated to the royal wedding. A horse called Royal Wedding, currently an 8-1 shot with some bookmakers, is scheduled to run in the 5:30 p.m. race at Fontwell.

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