Friday, April 25, 2008

Heavy security surrounds Olympic torch runner in Japan

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — Dashing past sporadic protests, runners carried the Olympic torch Saturday through Nagano’s streets, lined by thousands of riot police and closely monitored by helicopters overhead.

Police guards in track suits surrounded the torch bearers and and another 100 uniformed riot police trotted alongside six patrol cars and two motorcycles. They were backed up by thousands of other police.

Japanese officials said the security was unavoidable, and called for calm. But the high-profile police presence dissipated any festive mood in Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Games.

But despite a heavy police presence, minor scuffling and protests broke out.

Two men were arrested separately in the first half of the relay, each trying to charge the torch, but were quickly pounced by police, and a third man was apprehended
later after throwing eggs at the flame, Nagano police official Chihiro Usui said.

National broadcaster NHK reported a smoke-emitting tube was thrown at the relay, but without affect. Marchers yelling “Free Tibet” crowded the streets near the route. And before the start, one person was hurt in a fight between Chinese and
pro-Tibetan supporters, and a self-proclaimed monk carrying a knife was arrested.

The starting point — a last-minute substitution after a Buddhist temple pulled out — was closed to the public, as were all rest stops along the way.

The relay, making its 16th international stop, has been disrupted by protests or conducted under extremely heavy security at many sites since it left Greece.

The protests are largely in response to China’s crackdown last month on protests in Tibet, which it has governed since the 1950s, and to concerns over human rights issues in China.

The international route ends next week, with stops in South Korea on Sunday, North Korea on Monday and Vietnam on Tuesday. The flame arrives on Chinese soil on May 2 in Hong Kong, for a long journey around the country before the Aug. 8 start of the

Japan has taken severe measures to ensure its 11.6-mile relay goes smoothly.

But groups including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders planned to protest peacefully througout the day. About 2,000 Chinese exchange students, meanwhile, swarmed Nagano to show their support.

“We thank the people of Nagano for their support,” said Gao Rui, who came with his family waving Chinese flags. “I hope there won’t be any more problems. The Olympics are supposed to be about international unity.”

Several hundred more, divided into pro-China and pro-Tibet factions, rallied in front of the train station. Some marchers yelled “Free Tibet” and waved Tibetan flags, crowding the streets along the route.

“I came from Tokyo to show my support for Tibet,” said Toru Watanabe. “I’m glad it was peaceful, but it was impossible to see the torch.”

Coinciding with the start of the relay, which began under a light rain, a prayer vigil was held at the largest Buddhist temple in Nagano, Zenkoji.

The 1,400-year-old temple, which was the showcase of the 1998 Olympics, last week declined to host the start of the relay, citing security concerns and sympathy among monks and worshippers for their religious brethren in Tibet.

After arriving in Nagano by bus early Friday, the flame was spirited away to a hotel and put under heavy security. About 3,000 police have been mobilized.

The problems with the torch relay and reports of foiled terrorist plots in China have raised larger concerns of violence during the Beijing Games, the head of Interpol said Friday.

Ronald Noble told an international security conference that potential attacks could involve efforts to block transportation routes, interfere with competitions, assault athletes or destroy property during the Olympics.

In Vietnam, authorities expelled an American citizen of Vietnamese origin who planned to disrupt the relay there, state media reported. Vuong Hoang Minh, 34, was put on a flight to the U.S. on Thursday, the Vietnam News Agency said. It said Minh told authorities he planned to snatch the torch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boston, NYC Marathons want Olympic trials back, with changes

AP Sports Writer

BOSTON (AP) — Marathon officials in Boston and New York are
already eager to bring the 2012 Olympic trials back to their
cities, as long as the sport’s governing body helps them recoup the
$1 million it cost to piggyback another event on their races.

“There’s no going back at this point,” said Mary Wittenberg,
the president of the New York Road Runners, which organizes the New
York Marathon. “We’ve taken the trials to a whole new level. I
think we’re shortchanging everybody if we don’t find a way to build
on it.”

Although trials are common in most Olympic sports, including
other running events, the nature of the 26.2-mile marathon makes it
difficult to add another race into the athletic calendar. Virtually
every other country picks its marathon team by committee; Boston
men’s winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya and women’s winner Dire Tune
of Ethiopia are both hoping their performance on Monday will earn
them a trip to Beijing.

“That is complicated,” said Cheruiyot, a four-time Boston
winner who was left off the Kenyan team for Athens. “I may be
there; I may not. But I hope to be there.”

Less complicated is a race where the top three finishers make
the team.

And that’s the allure of the trials.

After decades of holding distinct, but largely ignored,
marathons to choose the Olympic teams — for the 2004 Games, the
trials were in St. Louis and Birmingham, Ala. — USA Track and Field
assigned the Beijing qualifiers to the country’s most prestigious

But the men didn’t traverse the five boroughs along the
traditional New York route; nor did the women head from Hopkinton
to Boston on Patriots Day as thousands of runners have done for a
century. Instead, the would-be Olympians followed specially
designed courses, a day before the traditional races.

“I think it put American distance running in a whole new
light,” Boston Athletic Association executive director Guy Morse
said Tuesday. “U.S. athletes deserve this sort of stage.”

Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell qualified
for Beijing on Sunday with their 1-2-3 finish in Boston. Ryan Hall,
Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell earned spots on the U.S. men’s
team with their top-three finishes in New York in November.

Both courses were lined with fans, many of them runners in town
for the next day’s race. But the extra event cost New York and
Boston officials more than $1 million each.

“We don’t believe it should be incumbent upon the local
organizing committee to have to support it 100 percent,” Morse
said. “We knew that going in, and we made that commitment. But we
won’t do it again” under those conditions.

What New York and Boston organizers wanted most was to fold the
trials into their regular race, perhaps with an earlier start that
would give the Americans the course to themselves. But that raised
the question: Would the trials’ profile be elevated by
incorporating it into the most prestigious marathons in the world,
or would it be overwhelmed by the international — and, frankly,
more accomplished — field.

“I know that there is no desire among our athletes — male or
female — to push the trial races into the ’big races,’” USATF
president Bill Roe said Tuesday. “We also have no desire to deal
with the possibility of a non-American crossing the finish line at
our trials first.”

But there’s a bigger obstacle: Money.

Morse said the trials cost “upwards of $1 million; we’re still
counting.” More importantly, he said, there was no opportunity to
recoup the expenses through sponsorship or television because those
rights are locked up by the USOC and USATF.

For the women’s trials, which ended at the traditional Boston
finish line, officials had to cover up John Hancock ads prepared
for Monday. And how would Olympic sponsor Bank of America feel
watching the U.S. team crowned under banners touting the local
sponsors at the ING New York City Marathon?

“I know my optimism about finding a solution with the USOC and
LOCs over costs is not shared among some in our sport,” Roe
said. “But I think we have to give it a try before ever contemplating
mixing the trials — which since 1972 have always been a stand-alone
event — with a larger event.”

Local organizers were able to solicit from official Olympic
sponsors, but “a lot of those sponsors feel like they’ve already
supported the Olympics and there was no more funding for the
trials,” Morse said. The USOC and USATF did chip in $20,000 apiece
for TV production and provided water and sports drinks for the
runners along the course.

Both Morse and Wittenberg said the key could be getting the host
cities awarded quickly, to give them time to seek out
sponsors. Boston was awarded this year’s trials about two years before the

Roe said that’s being discussed.

“Perhaps our trials site will be named earlier than in the
past,” he said.

For the Beijing qualifiers, USATF required a loop course that
essentially starts and ends at the same spot. By definition, such a
course is neither uphill nor downhill, neither upwind nor downwind,
and because it’s more compact the fan support is more concentrated.

By avoiding Heartbreak Hill and the other ups and downs of the
tough Boston course, organizers can puff up their Olympic
qualifiers with fast times. But, Morse noted, “our race would be
more indicative of what they’re going to face in the Games. In most
cases, it’s a Boston-type of course.”

Boston benefited, too, by having the chance to crown an American
winner on Boylston street, which hasn’t happened in the traditional
race since 1985. Local organizers of both events also reaped the
goodwill developed in their cities and from the running world.

“It’s part of a much bigger strategy for us, to build a sport
and develop stars,” Wittenberg said. “It’s time to get the big
fish in the big pond. I think before we were enabling
mediocrity. I’m so confident our athletes are up to the stage.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

IOC strips medals from Marion Jones’ relay teammates at 2000

AP Sports Writer

BEIJING — Marion Jones gave up her Olympic medals. Her
relay teammates aren’t quite as willing.

Jones’ former relay teammates paid for her doping offenses
Thursday, losing their medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics as the
International Olympic Committee stripped them from athletes who won
gold with Jones in the 1,600-meter relay and bronze in the 400

“The decision was based on the fact that they were part of a
team, that Marion Jones was disqualified from the Sydney Games due
to her own admission that she was doping during those games,” said
IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies, who announced the decision. “She
was part of a team and she competed with them in the finals.”

Jones’ teammates on the 1,600 squad were Jearl-Miles Clark,
Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea
Anderson. The 400-relay squad also had Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen
Perry and Passion Richardson.

The runners have previously refused to give up their medals,
saying it would be wrong to punish them for Jones’ violations. They
have hired a U.S. lawyer to defend their case, which could wind up
in the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The IOC ruling follows the admission by Jones last year that she
was doping at the time of the Sydney Games.

She returned her five medals last year and the IOC formally
stripped her of the results in December. Jones won gold in the 100
meters, 200 and 1,600 relay, and bronze in the long jump and 400

“The (IOC) decision ... illustrates just how far-reaching the
consequences of doping can be,” USOC chief executive officer Jim
Scherr said in a statement. “When an athlete makes the choice to
cheat, others end up paying the price, including teammates,
competitors and fans.

“We respect the decision of the IOC executive board, as well as
the right for the athletes who are impacted by this decision to
file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration of Sport, should they
so choose.”

The IOC put off any decision Thursday on reallocating the
medals, pending more information from the ongoing BALCO steroid
investigation in the United States.

A reshuffling of the medals could affect more than three dozen
other athletes. The IOC wants to know whether any other Sydney
athletes are implicated in the BALCO files.

Davies said the Jones’ relay case differed from that of
U.S. 400-meter runner Jerome Young, who was stripped of his gold medal
in the 1,600-meter relay from Sydney because of a doping violation
dating to 1999. He ran only in the preliminary of the relay.

The IOC had sought to strip the entire American men’s team but
the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in 2005 that there were no
rules in place at the time of the Sydney Games for a whole relay
team to be disqualified for an offense by one member.

“Marion Jones ran in the finals and she was of her own
admission doped during the Olympic Games,” Davies said. “Jerome
Young was found to be doped before the Olympic Games and should
never have competed in the first place.”

The next IOC board meeting takes place in Athens, Greece, in
June, followed by another meeting in Beijing on the eve of the
Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

Davies said there was no timetable for a decision on
redistributing medals, but noted there was an eight-year statute of
limitations. The Sydney Games finished on Oct. 1, 2000.

After denying she had ever used performance-enhancing drugs,
Jones admitted in federal court in October that she used the
designer steroid “the clear” from September 2000 to July 2001.
She began serving a six-month prison sentence last month for lying
to investigators about doping and her role in a check fraud scam.

On other doping matters, the IOC board adopted its anti-doping
rules for the Beijing Games, covering the period from the opening
of the Olympic village on July 27 to the closing ceremony on
Aug. 24.

Among new provisions, athletes will be considered guilty of a
doping violation if they are found in possession of any prohibited
substance, including marijuana. Missing two doping tests during the
games or one during that period and two in the previous 18 months
will constitute a violation. And athletes can be subjected to
no-advance notice drug tests “at any time or place” during the

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Security tightened as San Francisco girds for protests along Olympic torch relay


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Security was tightened on the Golden Gate Bridge and elsewhere around the city Tuesday as officials prepared for massive protests of China’s crackdown in Tibet during the Olympic torch’s only North American stop on its journey to Beijing.
The Olympic flame was whisked to a secret location shortly after its pre-dawn arrival Tuesday following widespread and chaotic demonstrations during the torch relay in London and Paris. Activists are protesting China’s human rights record, its grip on Tibet and support for Sudan despite years of bloodshed in Darfur.

The torch is scheduled to be paraded through the city Wednesday on a six-mile route that hugs San Francisco Bay. Already, one runner who planned to carry the torch dropped out because of safety concerns, officials said.

It began its 85,000-mile journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests from the start.

Hours after it arrived in San Francisco, protesters marched to the Chinese Consulate, calling on China to cease its heavy-handed rule of Tibet.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in Chinatown, leaders of China’s expatriate community held a news conference calling for a peaceful relay, and said they were proud China was selected to host the summer games.

In Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the body’s executive board would discuss Friday whether to end the international leg of the torch relay because of the demonstrations. He said he was “deeply saddened” by the
previous protests and was concerned about the relay in San Francisco.

“We recognize the right for people to protest and express their views, but it should be nonviolent. We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of their joy,” Rogge said.

Hundreds of activists carrying Tibetan flags and wearing traditional clothes gathered in United Nations Plaza, a pedestrian area near San Francisco’s City Hall, to denounce China’s policy toward Tibet and the recent crackdown on protesters
there. They then marched to the Chinese Consulate as part of a daylong Tibetan Torch Relay.

“This is not about us battling the torchbearers,” Lhadom Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, told the crowd outside the consulate. “This is about the Chinese government using the torch for political purposes. And we’re going
to use it right back.”

The day of protests culminated in an evening candlelight vigil for Tibet, with speeches by actor Richard Gere and human rights activist Desmond Tutu, who called on President Bush and other heads of state to boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

“We must tell the leaders of the world, ’For goodness sake, for God’s sake, for the sake of your children, our children, for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet, don’t go!’” Tutu told the crowd of hundreds.

San Francisco was chosen to host the relay in part because of its large Asian population.

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee and a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, said while many Chinese agree with critics of China, on the whole, Chinese-Americans feel a
tremendous sense of pride that the Beijing Olympics chose San Francisco as the only relay site in North America.

At a news conference Tuesday, business owners asked for calm.

“We are begging for five hours of peace,” said Sam Ng, president of the Chinese Six Companies, a prominent benevolent association.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Olympic leader: A boycott of Beijing Olympic would be ’serious error’

BEIJING (AP) — The head of an organization that oversees 205
national Olympic committees said politicians who encourage a
boycott or partial boycott of the Beijing Games are making “a
serious error.”

Mario Vazquez Rana, the president the Association of National
Olympic Committees, and the International Olympic Committee are
holding meetings over the next few days in China’s capital.

“Any politician who is pushing for a boycott is committing a
serious error,” Vazquez said Saturday. “For me a total boycott, a
partial boycott, is totally out of the question.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not ruled out the
possibility he might boycott the opening ceremony if China
continues its crackdown in Tibet. In Saturday editions of Le Monde,
one of his Cabinet ministers outlined changes needed for Sarkozy to
take part in the Aug. 8 ceremony, but later denied using the word

Le Monde had quoted Human Rights Minister Rama Yade as saying,
“Three conditions are essential for him to attend: an end to
violence against the population and the liberation of political
prisoners; light shed on the events in Tibet; and the opening of a
dialogue with the Dalai Lama.”

Rioting last month in Tibet has thrown a spotlight on China’s
human rights record, prompting protests along the torch relay. It
has turned the run-up to the Olympics into a stage for groups with
grievances against China’s communist government.

Vazquez took the same line offered Thursday by Hein Verbruggen,
who heads a team of IOC inspectors that are making their last
official visit to Beijing before the games. An IOC member,
Verbruggen was critical of politicians who call for boycotts,
saying the IOC is a sports organization — not a political one.

“This (Tibet) is a Chinese problem and China will have to
deploy all its ability and experience to solve its problem,”
Vazquez said. “Nobody should use the games as a way to solve this

The Chinese government said 22 people died in violence stemming
for the riots in Tibet. Tibet’s government in exile said 140 died.

“I’m very sincerely sorry for what has happened in Tibet, but
we must say that this is not an issue for the Olympic Games,”
Vazquez said.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Records fall in the water as new suits take off

AP National Writer

When Natalie Coughlin tried to squeeze into her first racing
swimsuit, oh the agony.

“I was crying because it hurt so bad,” said Coughlin, who
captured five medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and five more at
last year’s world championships. “Everyone was just trying to wear
as small a suit as possible.”

Not anymore. Covering up is the thing.

World records don’t stand a chance against the full-body suits
that are spawned in high-tech labs and tested in NASA wind
tunnels. They come with everything but a rocket attached to the back.

Speedo’s new “LZR Racer” already has taken an absurdly huge
chunk out of the record book, less than two months after lavish
debuts around the globe featuring swirling lights, thumping music
and a bevy of swimmers-turned-models.

So far, the Speedo suit has helped set 18 world marks.

Eighteen! More are sure to fall in upcoming qualifying races for
swimmers hoping to make it to the Beijing Olympics.

“It literally feels like you’re a rocket coming off the wall,”
said Michael Phelps, who hopes the LZR will carry him to eight gold
medals in Beijing. “The water just completely runs off the suit.”

There are some who bemoan the latest technological
breakthroughs, who wonder if world-class swimmers are being created
as much in the lab as they are in the pool.

Others say there’s no going back.

“They’re constantly trying to improve on the most current
design,” said Coughlin, who set one of the first records in
Speedo’s new duds. “It never really stops.”

The full-length bodysuits are a far cry from the crude attire
worn by female swimmers in the 1970s, which came with a scooped,
U-shaped back that was so uncomfortable the straps were tied
together with shoestrings. And surely everyone remembers the
increasingly skimpy briefs worn by male swimmers until a decade or
so ago.

“In my day, the game on the men’s side was to see how small a
suit you could wear,” said Steve Furniss, a two-time Olympian and
now executive vice president of California-based swimsuit company
Tyr. “The less, the better. We went around stuffing our little
heinies into those suits. Now, the game is covering up.”

NASA actually had a hand in developing the LZR Racer, which was
unveiled in mid-February.

“We were looking to understand and manage skin friction and the
drag on materials,” said Jason Rance, who heads up Speedo’s
research and development center. “The leaders on that thought are
NASA. They’ve spent a lot of time looking for ways to reduce the
drag on their spacecraft.”

“There’s always a lot of skeptics,” said Stu Isaac, Speedo’s
front man as the senior vice president of marketing and team
sales. “They say it’s all marketing and hype, that kind of thing. I think
now people understand that it goes beyond hype.”

Those falling world records, however, have raised suspicions
that something more sinister is at work. Has Speedo created a suit
that is somehow more buoyant, skirting the rules by allowing
swimmers to glide along the top of the water?

After one of his countrymen, Alain Bernard, set three world
records in a three-day span at the European championships, a top
French official questioned the legality of LZR Racer and called for
an investigation by governing body FINA.

There were similar complaints before the 2000 Sydney Games, the
launching point for the revolutionary full-length suits that are
now the norm. Four years later in Athens, Phelps won eight medals
(six of them gold) and the latest incarnation of the Fastskin
became the rage, leading to another round of outcry from the

FINA has called a meeting with the major swimsuit manufacturers
to coincide with this month’s short-course world championships in
Manchester, England. It was already on the agenda before Speedo’s
suit hit the water, and company officials are quick to point out
the top-secret fabric used in its LZR Racer was approved by the
governing body two years ago.

Cornel Marculescu, the organization’s executive director, said
there will be a review of “the procedures and regulations for
approval of swimwear, namely the issue of the thickness of the
swimsuits.” There’s no indication that Speedo’s suit, or the
similar groundbreaking attire trotted out by rivals companies like
Tyr and Arena, are in any danger of being shelved before
Beijing. The main goal is making sure the new suits are available to any
swimmer who wants to wear them.

“So far, all swimsuits are made from traditional materials such
as Lycra, polyester, elastic or nylon,” Marculescu said. “FINA
will continue looking at this issue. However, to our best
knowledge, the swimwear equipment is not an additional value on
achieving the best performances. We are not there yet.”

The LZR Racer will soon be available to the general
public. Pre-orders are already being taken by Speedo, with full bodysuits
going for as much as $550.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

IOC inspectors are satisfied after final meeting with

BEIJING (AP) — International Olympic Committee inspectors said
Thursday that they were satisfied by Chinese organizers’ assurances
that operations in critical areas will run smoothly in the Summer

With the Games just four months away, the inspectors — know as
the coordination commission — completed their final official
meetings with Beijing organizers. They said they were assured of
smooth operations for Internet access, live television broadcasts
and contingency plans to deal with the Beijing’s air pollution.

“We were satisfied by assurances we received across a number of
areas,” Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the inspection team, said in
a statement. He did not offer details but was scheduled to hold a
news conference later Thursday.

Earlier this week, a high-ranking IOC official said Chinese
officials had been told that Internet censorship had to be lifted
for thousands of journalists covering the games. About 30,000
accredited and non-accredited reporters are expected to report on
the games.

Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the coordinating commission, said
restricting access to the Internet during the games “would reflect
very poorly” on the host nation.

Beijing routinely blocks Chinese access to some foreign news Web
sites and blogs, a practice it has stepped up since rioting broke
out in Tibet in mid-march. Laws that lifted many restrictions on
foreign media went into effect Jan. 1, 2007. That is due to expire
in October.

Broadcasters have been lobbying against plans by Chinese
officials that might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen
Square. Any ban on live broadcasts would disrupt the plans of NBC
and other major international networks, who have paid hundreds of
millions of dollars for the rights to the games.

China routinely uses 30-second to one-minute delays to control
broadcasts seen on state-run TV. The Olympic torch lighting
ceremony last month in Greece was disrupted by a protester who ran
up behind a top Chinese official giving a speech. The image seen
around the world was never shown on state TV in China.

Monday’s torch arrival in Tiananmen Square was also broadcast on
a delay.

IOC officials have acknowledged that outdoor endurance events of
more than an hour could offer a small health risk to athletes. IOC
President Jacques Rogge began saying seven months ago that events
would be postponed if the air quality were poor.

Last month the IOC’s top medical officer said Beijing’s air
quality was better than expected. A study the IOC approved showed
there are risks to athletes in outdoor endurance events and
conditions may be less than ideal during the Aug. 8-24 period.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

U.S. women's volleyball team beats Chinese squad

By News Services

At Nanjing, China: Foluke Akinradewo scored 18 points as the U.S. women's national training volleyball team defeated JiangSu, a professional Chinese club team, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22 on Wednesday at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics to conclude the team's eight-match exhibition tour of China. Team USA finished the tour with a 5-3 record.

"This was a good final match for us in China against a challenging team," U.S. Women's National Team coach 'Jenny' Lang Ping said. "JiangSu's attack was very quick, but we studied the video of last night's match and made some adjustments today that were very effective. We had more success blocking their quick attack and maintained our concentration better throughout the match today."

The U.S. victory evened the two-match series with JiangSu, which won Tuesday's match in four sets. Jiangsu won a recent league tournament and defeated the China Army team in one of the preliminary rounds. Team USA defeated the China Army twice on the tour of China.

Team USA's three-week training tour of China was designed to allow the coaches to evaluate a younger group of players in preparation for Olympic Games roster selections. The U.S. qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games, held Aug. 8-24 in Beijing, by finishing with a bronze medal at the 2007 FIVB World Cup.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

IOC wants Beijing to open Internet during Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — The Internet must be open during the Beijing

That was the message a top-ranking International Olympic
Committee official delivered Tuesday to Beijing organizers during
the first of three days of meetings — the last official sessions
between IOC inspectors and the Chinese hosts before the games begin
in just over four months.

Beijing routinely blocks Chinese access to some foreign news Web
sites and blogs, a practice it has stepped up since rioting broke
out over two weeks ago in Tibet.

Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC coordinating commission,
said restricting access to the Internet during the games “would
reflect very poorly” on the host nation.

“This morning we discussed and insisted again,” Gosper
said. “Our concern is that the press (should be) able to operate as it
has at previous games.”

Gosper said the Chinese had an obligation under the “host city
agreement” to provide Internet access to the 30,000 accredited and
non-accredited journalists expected to attend.

“There was some criticism that the Internet closed down during
events relating to Tibet in previous weeks,” Gosper said.

Laws that lifted most restrictions on foreign media went into
effect Jan. 1, 2007. The rules are to expire in October.

“I’m satisfied that the Chinese understand the need for this
and they will do it,” Gosper added.

When asked about Gosper’s comments, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman
Jiang Yu said China’s “management” of the Internet followed the
“general practice of the international community.”

She acknowledged that China bans some Internet content, and said
other countries did the same. She declined to say if the Internet
would be unrestricted for journalists during the Olympics.

Gosper spoke after Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the inspection
committee, addressed his Chinese hosts. Without being specific,
Verbruggen noted that China’s Aug. 8-24 Games had become embroiled
in controversy.

The unrest in Tibet — and China’s response — has heightened
calls for a boycott or a partial boycott of the games. This comes
in the wake of worries over Beijing’s polluted air, and calls for
China to increase pressure on Sudan to end fighting in Darfur.

The Darfur issue prompted Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to
step down as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing

The torch relay left Beijing on Tuesday for Kazakhstan and a
monthlong global tour. Protests are likely at an event Chinese
organizers hoped would generate positive images of the country.

“Clearly in recent times more than ever, the Beijing Games are
being drawn into issues that do not necessarily have a link with
the operation of the games,” Verbruggen said. “We’re all aware
the international community is discussing these topics, but it is
important to remember that our main focus during these meetings is
the successful delivery of the games operations.”

The IOC has refused to speak out against China’s actions in
Tibet, saying it is a sporting body, not a political one. It has
maintained the Beijing Olympics “are a force for good” in opening
up the country.

Liu Qi, president of the organizing committee, told Verbruggen
the preparations were in the “final stage” but suggested the
hosts would not let up.

“There’s a saying in China that if you want to walk 100 steps —
though you have walked 90 — you have finished only half the
journey. We still have 10 steps left, and those 10 are very
critical to the whole journey.”

The People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper,
warned in an editorial Tuesday that troubles lie ahead in the four
months before the games.

“With the opening of the games approaching, the burden on our
shoulders is heavier and the task tougher,” it said. “We must
keep a clear head, improving our awareness of the potential
dangers, and bravely facing all the difficulties and challenges.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pitcher Lisa Fernandez, a three-time gold medalist, left off U.S.

AP Sports Writer

Lisa Fernandez, a three-time Olympic champion and perhaps
softball’s signature star for more than a decade, did not make the
U.S. team’s final 15-player roster for the Beijing Games.

“It’s like Michael Jordan getting cut from the basketball
team,” said catcher Stacey Nuveman.

The 37-year-old Fernandez was named a replacement player on the
American team, which will attempt to win its fourth straight gold
medal this summer. Fernandez was on the mound when the U.S. team
won gold in Athens, completing a historic run through the
tournament in which the Americans outscored the competition 51-1.

Fernandez was also the starting pitcher when the U.S. won it all
in Sydney in 2000. Four years earlier, she came in as a reliever
when the Americans cinched gold in Atlanta.

“I have no regrets,” Fernandez said. “I know I gave it
everything I had. There wasn’t a corner cut or a practice missed. I
just ran out of time. To me, the most important thing is that I
know I gave it everything I had. But there were certain things I
couldn’t control.”

She was making a comeback after missing three years of
international competition to start a family, and never quite got
back to form.

“I was really hoping she would get close to where she was in
2004,” said U.S. coach Mike Candrea. “She is still in my eyes the
best player who has ever played this game. I wanted her to go out
on top.”

Candrea kept only three pitchers: returning gold medalists
Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman, as well as first-time Olympian
Monica Abbott. Alicia Hollowell, a hard-throwing right-hander who
played for Candrea at Arizona, also was named a replacement player.

Candrea will only make changes to his roster if there are
injuries. He must submit it to the U.S. Olympic Committee for final
approval by July 1

Thursday, March 27, 2008

World records fall in swimming, cycling


SYDNEY, Australia —Eamon Sullivan broke the 50-meter freestyle world record again, and Olympic teammate Libby Trickett did the same over 100 meters Thursday at the Australian swimming championships in Sydney.

It was the third time in the past six weeks the men’s 50 record has been lowered, after Alexander Popov’s mark stood for nearly eight years.

Sullivan, competing in the 50 semifinals, finished in 21.41 seconds to break the mark of 21.50 established by France’s Alain Bernard at the European championships last weekend. Bernard had broken Sullivan’s previous mark of 21.56 set Feb. 17 in Sydney. Popov’s previous record was 21.64.

Sullivan missed Bernard’s 100-meter freestyle world record by 0.02 seconds on Wednesday.

“It’s sort of sweet to get this back after missing it last night,” he said. “I felt great in the warm-up tonight and great in the swim.”

Trickett, formerly Libby Lenton and competing for the first time under her married name, finished in 52.88 to better the mark of 53.30 set by Germany’s Britta Steffen in 2006.

It was the second time Trickett had broken the 53-second barrier, but her previous time of 52.99 in Sydney last year was not ratified by swimming’s governing body because she was swimming against Michael Phelps.

“I cannot say how much I wanted to do that,” Trickett said. “Ever since Duel in the Pool last year ... I’ve just wanted it so badly and to see it officially up there is just amazing.”

MANCHESTER, England — Britain broke two world records and completed a gold-medal sweep in the world track cycling championships Thursday.

The men set a team pursuit record and the women’s team broke the sprint mark.
Former rower Rebecca Romero became a two-sport champion when she emerged victorious in the individual pursuit for Britain’s fourth gold in the velodrome.

Bradley Wiggins, Paul Manning, Geraint Thomas and Edward Clancy powered ahead of Denmark to finish in 3 minutes, 56.322 seconds in the 4-kilometer pursuit final.

“We knew we could step up and put together a ride,” said Wiggins, who won an individual gold Wednesday. “We had been training at that sort of speed on that track. It was just a case of putting it together on the day.

“We knew we were bang on world record pace the whole way through.”

The Danes finished in 3:59.381. Australia, which set the previous world record at the 2004 Olympics, was third in 4:00.089, ahead of New Zealand.

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade successfully defended their title in the sprint in 33.661, after setting a world record of 33.186 in qualifying.

After the first lap in the final China was ahead. Reade blamed a technical fault with the gate for delaying her start. Pendleton led the fightback and surged ahead to snatch gold. Germany edged France to take bronze.

“This is only the beginning for me,” said Pendleton, who has two more golds to defend. “It’s going to be harder this year being an Olympic year and everyone raising their game.”

“To win the title and break a world record is absolutely amazing,” added 19-year-old Reade, the world BMX champion.

Two years after transferring from boat to bicycle, Romero beat two-time world champion Sarah Hammer by almost 7 seconds.

Romero clocked 3:30.501; Hammer was timed in 3:37.006.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

USOC head Peter Ueberroth believes Olympic Games a positive force

AP Sports Writer

DANA POINT, Calif. — Peter Ueberroth believes a
person-to-person approach can change relationships among countries,
and that the Olympics have and will continue to play a significant

Some human rights advocates have criticized China as it prepares
for this year’s Beijing Olympics.

“Almost any position people take about human rights, they
should have as many ties as possible to China in the long-term,”
Ueberroth, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said
Wednesday. “That has a much more positive effect than trying to have

“But they have to be real ties — ties between athletes, ties
between business, ties between friends and tourists.”

Speaking at the World Congress of Sports, a gathering made up
mostly of sports business executives, Ueberroth urged the 500 or so
in the audience to make friends and contacts in China and predicted
the economy there will continue to grow immensely.

Ueberroth, who headed the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, doesn’t
believe the games should be politicized, and said past boycotts
affected just one group.

“Boycotts do one thing very well and only one thing: they
punish athletes,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow
didn’t affect the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan at the
time. The Soviets responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics
four years later, but Ueberroth and the L.A. committee essentially
revived the Olympic movement with the first “private-enterprise
Olympics” with money from sponsors, and those games even turned a

Ueberroth said the Moscow Olympics still were “terrific games”
and opened the Soviet Union up to the world.

Ueberroth recalled that China was on the list of 100 countries
that were supposed to boycott the 1984 games, but a man working
with the L.A. committee called him from China in the middle of the
night and said, “They’re coming.”

“I feel indebted to China,” Ueberroth said. “They came and
they won their first medal. Now they’re going to be the
host. They’re going to put on great games, open their country up more
than it’s ever been open.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Yao Ming tells fans he is targeting Olympic return

BEIJING (AP) — Yao Ming’s message to his Chinese fans was clear: He plans to play in the Beijing Olympics.

In a letter published Friday in Chinese-language newspapers, the Houston Rockets star assured fans that his operation Monday to repair a stress fracture in his left foot was successful and he’ll be fit to play in August despite missing the rest of the NBA season.

“My injury has made many of you worried and you expressed your concern and sympathy in many ways,” Yao wrote. “You have always supported me and encouraged me at the lowest point of my career. And now I want to say thank you for your care and support.”

Yao thanked officials from the Chinese Basketball Administration, family and teammates. He promised a quick return, which his doctors have said is likely. He’s expected to need four months to heal.

“The surgery was very successful and I’ll start physical recovery very soon,” he wrote. “I’ll do whatever I can to overcome the difficulty and play for China in Olympics and be in my best form.

“I’ll see you in the Olympics. Thanks, everybody.”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beijing Olympics centerpiece venue delayed by preparations for opening, closing ceremonies

BEIJING (AP) — The completion date for the Beijing Olympics’s
marquee venue has been pushed back by a month, a top organizer
said, as workers put finishing touches on the stadium that
symbolizes China’s ambitions for the games.

Work on the futuristic “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium has been
slowed by preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies and
it will not be ready until late April, Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice
president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, told the
China Daily newspaper.

“The construction of the venue and the background setting up
for the ceremonies are going on together now, which has postponed
the working progress of the Bird’s Nest,” he was quoted as saying
in Thursday editions of the state-run paper. “The Bird’s Nest will
be the last but the best venue at the Beijing Games.”

The main structure of the stadium was complete and only
finishing touches remained, organizing committee spokesman Sun
Weide told The Associated Press. A request for more details was
e-mailed to the committee’s media center, but an employee said they
did not have further information.

With enormous twisted beams wound around the exterior like
silver twigs in a nest, the 91,000 seat National Stadium is the
centerpiece of the games, a massive prestige effort by the
communist government.

Organizers have spared no effort or expense in preparing for the
Beijing Olympics, which they want to use to showcase a modern,
vibrant “new China.” They have been meticulous in planning every
little detail, down to specially breeding flowers that will bloom
in the August heat.

The construction of sparkling new venues has been a key part of
a multibillion-dollar modernization campaign for
Beijing. Anchoring an Olympic Green that also includes a modern indoor
stadium and the “Water Cube” aquatics center, the telegenic
Bird’s Nest is likely to be prominently featured in Olympic
broadcasts around the world.

There have been few venue construction delays on the often-bumpy
road to the games. While China has had to defend against criticism
on everything from its dirty air to its diplomatic policies in
Darfur, every venue but the Bird’s Nest was completed on schedule
by the end of last year.

The process has had hiccups, however. Two workers died during
construction of the Bird’s Nest, and a planned retractable roof had
to be scrapped to cut costs.

There was no suggestion that the Bird’s Nest would not be ready
in time for the Games, which are five months away.

Jiang did not elaborate on the preparations for the opening and
closing ceremonies — directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the
details are top secret.

Speculation among ordinary Chinese abounds on the Internet, with
many guessing at how the Olympic flame will be lit during the
Aug. 8 opening ceremony. A columnist for the Chinese edition of Sports
Illustrated joked that Beijing’s potent “erguotou” liquor (some
varieties are 60 percent alcohol) should help set the Olympic
cauldron ablaze.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

CAS to hold March 19 hearing to resolve Asian Olympic handball qualifying dispute

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport will hold a hearing March 19 to resolve the Asian Olympic handball qualifying dispute.

CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb said a binding ruling will then be given within days of the hearing, allowing Asian teams to take part in further qualifying matches in Europe from March 28.

The Asian federation and the national associations of Kazakhstan and Kuwait have challenged a decision by the International Handball Federation, the sport’s governing body, to order replays of qualifying matches for the Beijing Olympics following questionable referee decisions.

“I think we will go forward positively from this,” IHF managing director Hala Helmy said of the hearing date. “We have three women’s qualifying tournaments taking place at the same time (March 28-30) all over Europe. In each of the venues, four teams are taking part and two will go to the Olympics.”

Asian men’s teams will play in Olympic qualifying tournaments from May 30-June 1.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Austrian skier has his lower leg amputated after crash

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Austrian skier Matthias Lanzinger’s lower left leg was amputated Tuesday because of complications from two broken bones in a crash at a World Cup race.

Lanzinger broke his shin and fibula Sunday during a super-G. The double fracture severely damaged blood vessels, hampering circulation in the 27-year-old skier’s leg.

The Austrian ski federation said the surgery Monday night was only partly successful and left doctors no other option in an effort to avoid further risks.

“The circulation could not be stabilized,” said doctor Thomas Hoelzenbein, who was flown in from Austria Monday to lead the operation.

Organizers of the race in Kvitfjell, Norway, were criticized because no medical helicopter was available. Lanzinger was flown to a hospital in Lillehammer in a tourist helicopter, and later was brought to Oslo.

“The lacking safety measures at these races are shocking,” Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer told the Austria Presse Agency on Tuesday. “I can’t understand how a World Cup race could be organized at such a low safety level.”

FIS general secretary Sarah Lewis said World Cup events are the responsibility of the hosting national federation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WADA says it has effective blood test for human growth hormone

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An effective blood test for
detecting human growth hormone will be in place for the Beijing
Olympics, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday.

HGH is considered one of the most widely abused
performance-enhancing drugs, and experts say athletes have been
able to use it with little fear of being caught. The substance
clears the system quickly, making testing difficult.

“By the Olympic Games there will be a capacity to detect HGH,”
WADA president John Fahey said.

A test was used at the 2004 Athens and 2006 Turin Olympics but
yielded no positives because athletes using it would have stopped
in time to make sure it cleared the system beforehand. The latest
development should allow for more routine testing out of

“We know people have been taking human growth hormone with
impunity and have been for 20 years,” WADA director general David
Howman said.

He said the test would be able to catch cheats within a window
of “more than 48 hours.”

Officials refused to give details, saying drug cheats needed to
be left in the dark. But Fahey did say he was very confident about
the tests.

“We all know these things end up in court more often than
not,” he said. “It’s got to withstand the legal challenge as
well. No reason to believe that all of that won’t be in place and
that there will be a capacity to test at the Beijing Olympics.”

Fahey said traces of the drug could also be frozen and stored in
samples for up to eight years, meaning users could still be caught
and lose their medals years later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Olympic diving and water polo notes

By News services


BEIJING – Chris Colwill (Brandon, Fla.) and Jevon Tarantino (Boca Raton, Fla.) placed sixth in the men’s synchronized 3-meter final Tuesday, the opening day of the Good Luck Beijing/FINA Diving World Cup.

The pair scored scored 404.64 points in their first World competition after competing in three Grand Prix meets last year. China’s Wang Feng and Qin Kai scored 462.12 points for the men’s 3-meter synchro gold, and Russia’s Yuriy Kunakov and Dmitry Sautin took silver at 418.65.

Tuesday’s competition also included women’s 10-meter preliminaries, with Laura Wilkinson (Spring, Texas) and Haley Ishimatsu (Seal Beach, Calif.) placing sixth and 13th, respectively, to advance to the semifinals, set for Wednesday morning.
Wilkinson scored 343.60 points, and Ishimatsu finished with 321.05 points. China’s Chen Ruolin topped the preliminary field with 410.10 points, with Wang Xin, also of China, taking second at 382.35.

Ishimatsu’s top-18 finish guarantees the United States a second spot in women’s 10-meter for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Wilkinson had already secured one spot for the U.S. as a result of her fourth-place showing at last year’s World Championships (Spots are earned for the countries, not the divers themselves).

The semifinals begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The top 12 in the semis will advance to the finals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Colwill will dive again Wednesday in the men’s individual 3-meter preliminaries, which begin at 2 p.m. Two-time Olympian Troy Dumais (Ventura, Calif.) also will dive in that event.


A day after being remanded to their hotel for a "lockdown" in Serbia following an announcement of independence by neighboring Kosovo, the USA Men's Senior National Team has returned to training. The team was scheduled to take part in two practices today in Serbia as well as an additional practice on Wednesday morning before departing the country.

The team plans to depart Serbia midweek and head to Greece as they continue on their trip. Team USA was in Serbia as part of a multi-country training trip in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The team will visit Greece and Italy before returning home on Feb. 29.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beijing Olympic Tickets are Hard to Come by

By Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times

BEIJING — It is not as though all 1.3 billion people in China are
trying to attend the Olympics.

It just seems that way if you’re trying to book a seat. Tickets to
the 2008 Games are proving to be among the most coveted in sporting

Money, luck, persistence, computer skills and, in some cases, the
right political background, are among the prerequisites.

Scalpers already are demanding as much as $40,000 a seat for the
Aug. 8 Opening Ceremony, and tickets for popular sports such as
basketball, gymnastics and pingpong (a particular Chinese favorite)
are going for 10 times their face value.

The crushing demand for the roughly 7 million tickets that the
Beijing Olympic Committee is putting on sale for the general public
comes from inside and out: Americans and Europeans who have long
dreamed of visiting China and think the Olympics will be the right
occasion, and middle-class Chinese families who want to watch with
pride as their nation celebrates what is widely touted as a coming-out

On the domestic market, ticket seekers have been frustrated by long
lines and crashing computer systems. A disproportionate number of
those who mastered the system were students and professionals in the
information technology field who were able to elbow their way to the
front of electronic queues.

Friday, February 15, 2008

IOC: Olympic athletes can blog if they follow rules

GENEVA (AP) — Let the blogging begin.

The IOC has given athletes the right to blog at the Beijing
Games this summer, a first for the Olympics, as long as they follow
the many rules it set to protect copyright agreements, confidential
information and security.

Blogging is a “legitimate form of personal expression,” the
International Olympic Committee said.

The IOC said blogs by athletes “should take the form of a diary
or journal” and should not contain any interviews with other
competitors at the Games. They also should not write about other

“It is required that, when accredited persons at the games post
any Olympic content, it be confined solely to their own personal
Olympic-related experience,” the IOC said.

The debate over blogging has been a difficult one for the IOC,
which has been concerned that the online journals might infringe on
copyright agreements or release confidential information during the
Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Bloggers are prevented from posting audio clips or videos of
“any Olympic events, including sporting action, opening, closing
and medal ceremonies or other activities which occur within any
zone which requires an Olympic identity and accreditation card (or
ticket) for entry.”

Still pictures are allowed as long as they do not show Olympic
events. Athletes must obtain the consent of their competitors if
they wish to photograph them.

Also, athletes cannot use their blogs for commercial gain.

“No advertising and/or sponsoring may be visible on screen at
the same time as Olympic content,” the IOC said.

The IOC said accredited participants in the Olympics also
“should not disclose any information ... which may compromise the
security, staging and organization of the games.” The same rule
applies for the security of athletes’ teams.

Domain names for blogs should not include any word similar to
“Olympic” or “Olympics.” Bloggers are, however, urged to link
their blogs to official Olympic Web sites.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

China blames activists for linking Olympics to Sudan

BEIJING (AP) China is blaming activists with “ulterior
motives” for linking the Beijing Olympics to the nation’s
involvement in Sudan, with top officials saying they shared
concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Games organizers and the Foreign Ministry responded Thursday to
Steven Spielberg rejecting a role as an artistic adviser to the

The film director withdrew on Tuesday on the grounds that China
wasn’t doing enough to pressure Sudan over the conflict in its
western region of Darfur.

China is believed to have influence over the Islamic regime
because it buys two-thirds of the country’s oil exports while
selling it weapons and defending it in the United Nations.

In their first response to Spielberg’s announcement, Games
organizers said his decision would not affect planning for the
opening and closing ceremonies, adding: “We express our regret
over his recent personal statement.”

“The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve
the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community
which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue,” the organizers,
known as BOCOG, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated

“Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to
resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic Spirit that
separates sports from politics,” BOCOG said.

China is on the defensive against critics using the Games to
spotlight the communist regime’s curbs on human rights, press
freedoms, and religion.

“It is understandable if some people do not understand the
Chinese government policy on Darfur,” Foreign Ministry spokesman
Liu Jianchao said. “But I am afraid that some people may have
ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept.”

Liu said China was working with the United Nations to resolve
the Darfur crisis.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union wants athletes to
resist raising human rights and other sensitive political issues
during the Beijing Olympics.

“Sports is too important. It is too important to use it as a
political instrument,” Milan Zver, the sports minister of
Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency, said Thursday.

The British Olympic Association initially said this week it
would contractually require its athletes to not make any
politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the games,
although it later changed tack.

Other national games committees have also warned athletes not to
speak out at Olympic sites.

Under IOC rules, athletes cannot discuss political issues within
Olympic zones, but should have freedom of speech outside them. Zver
said that even though he understood the importance of human rights,
the Beijing Games should be spared the controversy.

“The Olympics is not a good place for that,” Zver said in an
interview with The Associated Press. “We, the politicians, have to
do that,” Zver said.

Zver believes multinational companies that trade and invest in
China have more of an obligation to speak up rather than athletes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

China has yet to respond to Spielberg withdrawal

BEIJING (AP) — Steven Spielberg was supposed to lend a little
Hollywood glitz to this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Instead, the heavyweight director’s rejection of a role in the
Summer Games on human rights grounds stands as the event’s biggest
political challenge yet.

Spielberg, who won an Oscar for his 1993 Holocaust film
“Schindler’s List,” said he was turning down a position as
artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies because
China was not doing enough to pressure its ally Sudan into ending
the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

That decision drew praise from a slew of other groups critical
of Beijing, boosting a months-long campaign by activists to
spotlight the communist regime’s human rights record.

Although not entirely unexpected, Spielberg’s announcement
Tuesday appeared to catch Beijing flat-footed. Neither the
organizing committee nor China’s Foreign Ministry had responded by
late Wednesday.

Spielberg, whose 2005 film “Munich” dealt with the killings of
11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, had indicated as early as
August that he might not take part in the ceremonies. Spielberg
said he had given up hope that China would take a more aggressive
approach toward Sudan.

China is believed to have special influence with the Islamic
regime because it buys two-thirds of the country’s oil exports
while selling it weapons and defending Khartoum in the
U.N. Security Council.

Fighting between government-backed militia and rebels in Darfur
has killed more than 200,000 people and left an estimated 2.5
million displaced since 2003.

“While China’s representatives have conveyed to me that they
are working to end the terrible tragedy in Darfur, the grim
realities of the suffering continue unabated,” Spielberg said in a

Spielberg was supposed to have joined a team led by famed
Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Yimou’s representatives did not
respond to e-mailed requests for comment. Spielberg had yet to sign
a contract and had only visited Beijing once as part of Olympic

In recent days, the U.S. Congress and a coalition of Nobel Peace
Prize winners, politicians and elite athletes have also lobbied
Beijing over Darfur.

Actress Mia Farrow and other activists delivered an open letter
addressed to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Chinese Mission to
the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

“How can Beijing host the Olympic Games at home and underwrite
genocide?” said Farrow, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, shivering in
freezing weather.

Praising Spielberg’s decision, Human Rights Watch said corporate
sponsors, governments and national Olympic committees must urge
Beijing to improve human rights at home.

China has repeatedly denounced what it calls attempts to
“politicize” the Aug. 8-24 Games.

Yet it has been unable to turn back a rising tide of negative
global opinion that joins concerns over the city’s notorious
pollution, snarled traffic and displacement of people for the
construction of Olympic venues.

Beijing has invested billions of dollars and its national
prestige into what it hopes will be a glorious showcase of China’s
rapid development from impoverished agrarian nation to rising
industrial power.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau
said the IOC had not been involved in discussions between Beijing
and Spielberg and had no comment on the director’s pullout.

“This is a personal decision of Mr. Spielberg,” Moreau said.

Leading sponsor Adidas, which is reportedly spending $200
million for sponsorship rights to the Beijing Games, also said it
would remain uninvolved.

“We do not believe we have the political leverage that the
campaigners attribute to us,” the German sporting goods maker said
in a statement.

China’s state-controlled media carried no mention of Spielberg’s

Despite the government’s official view, Luo Qing, a scholar who
researches China’s national image at Communications University of
China in Beijing, said the 2008 Games were destined to attract
political controversy.

“The Olympics is not just about sports,” Luo said. “Politics
will be even more prominent in 2008 because China is a political
hot spot and, as an Eastern country, likely to cause greater

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

USOC plans no additional free-speech measures in Beijing

Committee will ask American athletes to comply with international
Olympic rules regarding free speech in Beijing, but won’t impose
the extra measures the British federation has been criticized for.

International Olympic Committee rules state “no kind of
demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is
permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”

The British Olympic Association plans to require its athletes to
sign an agreement barring them from making politically sensitive
remarks or gestures during the Olympics, a policy that was widely
criticized as a measure that went beyond the Olympic charter.

The USOC has never had any rules that would be any more
restrictive than what’s in the Olympic charter, spokesman Darryl
Seibel said Monday.

“The Olympic charter applies to athletes from every country,
and we use the charter as our guide,” Seibel said. “We will not
impose prohibitions on free speech with our delegation. We do
expect our delegation to comply with the relevant provisions of the
Olympic charter.”

After receiving criticism, British federation spokesman Graham
Newsom said there had been “no intention of gagging anyone,” and
that the BOA was simply trying to mirror the rule in the Olympic
charter. BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said the final agreement
that athletes will sign will show that the intention is not to
restrict athletes’ freedom of speech.

Human rights groups, political activists and other observers are
concerned over whether the Chinese government will allow free
speech during the Olympics.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dunn nears another Olympic spot in racewalking

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — Philip Dunn raised his right fist as he finally crossed the finish line, then wrapped himself in the American flag.

He was exhausted. He was also exhilarated, since a third Olympic berth may soon be his.

“This wasn’t a walk in the park,” Dunn said.

Interesting choice of words.

Dunn won the U.S. men’s 50-kilometer Olympic racewalking trials Saturday at Crandon Park just south of downtown Miami, pulling away from Matt Boyles late in the grueling race that had only 15 qualified entrants. A third of them didn’t finish, and most of those who completed the 25-lap course did so in obvious agony.
Dunn got the win, but his Olympic task isn’t done yet.

His time was 4 hours, 12 minutes, 55 seconds — 5:55 slower than the Olympic ’B’ qualifying standard. If he completes a 50K event in the standard time by July 23, he’ll be eligible for the Beijing Games in August.

“Before every race, you make a set of goals,” said Dunn, who hails from San Diego. “The main goal was to win for me, to come out on top. The secondary goal was to hit the time standard and seal the deal, make Beijing today. When that didn’t happen, yeah, I was disappointed a little bit. But I regrouped.”
Matt Boyles forced him to regroup.

Boyles is 25 and was competing in just his second 50K racewalk. He was stride-for-stride with Dunn from the opening gun, and by the time they completed two laps around the two-kilometer course, most of the field was already more than a minute behind.

The pursuers never caught up, either. At the 30K mark, Boyles forced the issue and took a slim lead — which he later regretted, because with 10 kilometers left, Dunn passed him with relative ease and kept pulling away.

2004 Olympian Kevin Eastler dropped out after one lap because he’s recovering from hernia surgery, and three-time Olympian Curt Clausen (who finished more than an hour
behind the leaders) needed multiple ice packs rubbed on his legs in the medical tent just after crossing the line.

Friday, February 8, 2008

USA Volleyball teams with Sports Museum of America

By News Services

USA Volleyball Secretary General Kerry Klostermann announced today a partnership with the Sports Museum of America (SmA).

USA Volleyball joins over 50 single-sport Halls of Fame, National Governing Bodies, Museums and other sports organizations across North America as a Founding Sports Partner of the Sports Museum of America, Scheduled to open in New York City in May 2008, SmA is the nation's first and only museum to celebrate all sports under one roof. Filled with original films, state-of-the-art interactives and an iconic collection of memorabilia, SmA will richly showcase the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture through great sports' stories of courage, education and triumph.

According to Klostermann, this exciting new partnership will introduce a broad new audience to the thrills of volleyball. "USA Volleyball is both pleased and honored to be a partner organization with the Sports Museum of America. Having such a prestigious home to showcase our sport, athletes and coaches will advance our efforts tremendously in our mission to involve the citizens of America in the healthy, fun and lifetime sport of volleyball."

"The Sports Museum of America is extremely pleased to have USA Volleyball join our more than 50 exclusive sports partner organizations to create the first comprehensive museum of sports," says Founder and CEO Philip Schwalb. "SmA looks forward to sharing volleyball's tremendous legacy -- from Karch Kiraly to Logan Tom to the stars of tomorrow -- with our millions of visitors. We'll excite our fans about the sport of volleyball and encourage them to find out more information on USA Volleyball in Colorado Springs and across the country."

Under the terms of the partnership, USA Volleyball will provide photos pertaining to the history of volleyball and of interest to the projected one million worldwide annual visitors to SmA. Likewise, joint marketing efforts will be undertaken by both partners, and SmA will make an annual donation to support USA Volleyball.

About the Sports Museum of America:
The Sports Museum of America (SmA) is the nation's first and only all-sports experience richly showcasing the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture. Created in exclusive partnership with over 50 single-sport Halls of Fame, National Governing Bodies and other sports organizations across North America, SmA features amazing state-of-the-art interactive technologies, dramatic original films and an iconic collection of sports memorabilia. SmA will also be home to the legendary Heisman Trophy (and annual televised presentation) and the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center, inclusive of the first hall of fame devoted exclusively to female athletes and coaches. Located in New York City at 26 Broadway (next to the "Charging Bull" and footsteps from the Statue of Liberty Ferry), the Sports Museum of America will open in May 2008.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Olympic-level swimmers get ready for Missouri Grand Prix

Twenty Olympians, including eight-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps (Baltimore, Md.) and four-time Olympian Dara Torres (Parkland, Fla.), are expected to compete at the Missouri Grand Prix, Feb. 15-18 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, Mo. The third stop in the 2007-2008 Toyota Grand Prix Series marks the first long course competition of 2008 for many of the top swimmers in the United States.

Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and the Texas trio of Aaron Peirsol (Irvine, Calif. / Longhorn), Brendan Hansen (Havertown, Pa. / Longhorn) and Ian Crocker (Portland, Maine /Longhorn), will also swim in Columbia. Lochte, Peirsol, Hansen and Crocker all hold individual world records in their specialty events. Rounding out the men’s field are Olympians Erik Vendt, Peter Vanderkaay, Mark Gangloff, Neil Walker, and Scott Usher, as well as 2008 Olympic hopefuls Davis Tarwater, Eric Shanteau, Jayme Cramer and Nick Brunelli.

In addition to Torres, five-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin (Vallejo, Calif.), and world-record holders Katie Hoff (Towson, Md.) and Kate Ziegler (Great Falls, Va.) will headline the women’s field. Adding to the stacked women’s field in Missouri are Olympians Amanda Beard, Kaitlin Sandeno, Tara Kirk, Rachel Komisarz, Kara Lynn Joyce, Margaret Hoelzer and Carly Piper, and National Team members Kim Vandenberg, Mary Descenza, and Leila Vaziri.

Descenza (Naperville, Ill.) leads the overall medal count of the 2007-2008 Toyota Grand Prix Series (five gold, five silver, one bronze). The top scoring swimmer at the culmination of the eight-meet Toyota Grand Prix Series will be awarded $20,000, courtesy of Toyota and USA Swimming. A leaderboard can be found online at

Thursday, January 31, 2008

USA Volleyball hires Danalee Corso for beach division

By The Associated Press

USA Volleyball moved to bolster its beach division on Wednesday by hiring former pro Danalee Corso as technical coordinator and master coach.

Corso will serve as the junior national team coach while
organizing youth and junior beach volleyball performance camps and
helping select train junior athletes for international
tournaments. She will also provide technical assistance to the elite athletes
representing the United States in international competition.

Corso will also develop a certification and training program for
beach volleyball coaches.

“Danalee’s addition to the USAV family illustrates our
commitment to grow the beach game by creating new programming and
enhancing support,” said Ali Wood, the USAV director of beach
programs. “In addition to her strong volleyball experience,
Danalee has a successful entrepreneurial background that will
stimulate program development.

The owner, with her husband Brian, of the Aloha Ball Beach
Volleyball School, Corso has been coaching beach volleyball since
1993. She has worked with teams that have competed both on the AVP
Tour and represented the United States internationally.

Corso played volleyball at Loyola Marymount before heading to
the beach on the American and international beach volleyball tours.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beijing Olympics going Kosher

AP Sports Writer

BEIJING — Beijing and the Olympics are going Kosher.

The capital’s only Kosher restaurant opened 10 months ago,
drawing the small Jewish expatriate community, tourists, curious
Chinese and even a few Muslims. Business has been so good at Dini’s
Kosher Restaurant, that part-owner Lewis Sperber is talking about
setting up a second branch closer to the Olympic venues in northern

Like many restaurateurs and bar owners, Sperber is hoping to
benefit with as many as 550,000 foreigners expected to descend on
Beijing for the Aug. 8-24 Games.

“What we’ve thought about is preparing sandwiches and other
items at a venue closer than we are now to the Olympic sites,”
Sperber said. “If people leave the Olympics and want a Kosher
meal, we could have a place for them.”

Eating Kosher — food that meets Jewish dietary laws — is hardly
a raging fad. However, there is a real boom is the number of
Chinese factories being certified to export Kosher products. This
is driven partially by recent food safety scares in China involving
contaminated seafood, pet food and toothpaste.

Kosher certifications in China conducted by the Orthodox Union —
the best-known certification body — have doubled to 307 in the last
two years. The total number of Kosher certifications is about
2,000, exporters working to reach the world Kosher market.

“I think business will be very overwhelming during the
Olympics,” said Minette Ramia, who manages Dini’s, a modern,
pastel-colored eatery located on Super Bar Street, an aptly named
alleyway lined with restaurants and bars just down the street from
the Israeli embassy.

“From the hygiene side, whether someone is Kosher or not,
Jewish or not, people will want food from here because it is
considered cleaner and more hygienic being that we’re in China,”
Ramia said. “A Muslim woman came in recently because she can’t eat
meat anywhere else.”

The staff and cooks at Dini’s are nearly all Chinese. Waiters
bring new Chinese customers a handout to explain Kosher, which is
called “Jie Shi” in Chinese — “clean food.”

“When Chinese come, I don’t think they know what to order,”
said Zhao Haixia, the assistant manager. “Normally they just rely
on us to tell them what’s good.”

The menu features both northern European (Ashkenazi) and
Mediterranean (Sephardic) food traditions. Mainstays like matzo
ball soup, chopped liver and Gefilte fish are seldom chosen by
Chinese, who more often go for Kosher beef dumplings (Jiaozi) or
sizzling beef — Kosher style.

Gefilte fish is a hard sell.

“In China eating cold fish doesn’t sound so good,” Zhao said.

Like Beijing’s noxious air, China’s food safety is one the most
sensitive issues surrounding the Olympics, carrying the potential
to ruin China’s $40 billion preparations to use the Games to show
off a modern nation removed from its agrarian roots.

One food poisoning case, like one positive doping test —
particularly by a Chinese athlete — could grab headlines for weeks
and ruin the public relations effort by the communist government.

Following a string of food scandals last year, Beijing
organizers launched an aggressive campaign to showcase a new way of
monitoring aimed at tracing products from the field to the table.

The government also unveiled the Olympic Food Safety Command
Center to deal with food emergencies.

“Precautions must be taken to avert any trace of terrorist
attack on our food supply chain,” said Zhang Zhikuan, head of the
Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau.

Concern centers on the safety standards of meat, and stimulants
used to boost yields. Some fear drugs used in animal feed could
trigger positive doping test among athletes.

At least one of the new monitoring systems — coding on packaging
to trace the source of production — has long been required for
Kosher certification.

“The fact that there is another set of eyes coming through the
plants on a regular basis — such as the Kosher auditing or Kosher
supervisors — means that the companies, the factories are more
careful about hygiene and sanitation,” said Rabbi Mordechai
Grunberg, who examines Chinese factories for the Orthodox Union.

China’s Kosher exports are composed almost exclusively of food
additives, spices, vegetables and candies.

“It’s like any other product coming out of China,” Rabbi
Grunberg said. “Outsourcing has gotten easier, quality has gotten
higher and the price is cheaper.”

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, who also inspects for the Orthodox
Union and owns a part interest in Dini’s, said American-based food
companies are asking him to conduct non-Kosher inspections of their
operations in China. He called them “100 percent” related to
recent food scandals in China.

“They don’t necessarily want it for Kosher purposes,” he
said. “They just want to make sure they can guarantee that the standard
promised by the company is what’s being produced.”

The Jewish population in mainland China is only a few thousand
and exclusively expatriates — 1,500 in Beijing, 1,000 in Shanghai
and 500 in Guangzhou. Several thousand more are scattered in small
cities with 4,000 in Hong Kong. Historians suggest a small Chinese
Jewish community existed centuries ago in the central city of

Grunberg is optimistic a domestic Kosher market will develop in
China, fueled partly by hygiene issues.

“I think there will be a big market here, and a big market
could mean just a fraction of a percent of 1.3 billion. With only
that you’ll have a bigger market than we have for Kosher in the
United States.”

Both Kosher and Halal — food prepared following Islamic
religious rules — will be available at the Olympic Athletes
Village, a requirement of the International Olympic Committee. The
Philadelphia-based company Aramark is running the catering
operation and will serve 17,000 athletes and officials at dining
rooms capable of feeding 6,000 at once on a 24-hour schedule.

The Olympic Kosher kitchen is being lined up by Rabbi
Freundlich, the rabbi of Beijing’s Jewish community.

“I would be the overall supervisor of the kitchen and have a
number of colleagues helping me maintain the Kosher standard
throughout the Olympics,” he said. “We’d expect to serve 300-400
meals a day, more than twice what I’m told was served in Athens.”

Sourcing of most Halal and Kosher products in China is easy —
except for meat. No factory has been certified to export Kosher
meats from China. Many factories are certified to produce Halal,
though exporting Halal meat from China is difficult with some
Islamic countries suspicious of Chinese certification.

China is estimated to have a Muslim population of 1-2 percent of
its 1.3 billion people, most living in the west of China.

“Normally it’s easy to export Halal non-meat products from
China, but meat products certified in China are more difficult,”
said Ray Chueng, a Shanghai businessman who helps factories get
Halal or Kosher certification.

“I think even Chinese Muslims are not so careful with Halal
things,” Chueng added. “They know what you can eat and can’t eat,
but they are not very careful if things are labeled Halal.”

Penny Xiang, deputy director of the Game Services Department for
the 2008 Olympics, said 36 food suppliers have been picked for the
Games, “all under very close supervision.” She declined to offer
extra details. In general, Beijing organizers are careful talking
about food suppliers, citing security reasons.

“I think the government’s food security committee has
formulated a special standard for the Olympic Games compared with
national standard and World Health Organization standard,” she
said. Asked how the new standard compared, she replied: “It’s
probably higher.”

She said daily food consumption at the Athletes Village would
reach 220,000 pounds with daily rubbish weighing 110,000 pounds.

“Sometimes it’s the easiest and simplest things that makes the
most complex job,” Xiang said. “People think preparing food is so
natural, so easy. It comes to you every day and you are so used to
it, so you don’t think there is any complexity behind it.”

“Eating is easy, but serving the right food to people is

Xiang said many of China’s “most influential politicians going
right to the top,” wanted the Olympics to showcase only Chinese
cuisine in the Athletes Village. Several proposed preparing 2,000
Peking roast ducks — the capital’s specialty — for athletes before
the Aug. 8 opening ceremony.

Presumably some would have been Kosher ducks.

“It was ruled out,” Xiang said. “We’d need to serve all of
this just before the biggest moment for commotion and
confusion. Just imagine how that would have been."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gay, Hoff, Galli and women's gymnastics team win USOC yearly honors

Sprinter Tyson Gay (Lexington, Ky.), swimmer Katie Hoff (Abingdon, Md.), wheelchair track and field athlete Jessica Galli (Hillsborough, N.J.), and the U.S. Women’s World Championships Gymnastics Team have been selected as the 2007 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsMan, SportsWoman, Paralympian and Team of the Year, respectively.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Marion Jones appears on Oprah Winfrey’s show, talks about prison

CHICAGO (AP) — Marion Jones said Wednesday seeing the pain her
family and friends endured after she admitted using
performance-enhancing drugs outweighed the impact of returning her
Olympic medals.

The former Olympic track gold medalist appeared on “The Oprah
Winfrey Show,” her first television interview since being
sentenced last week to six months in prison for lying to
investigators about steroid use and a check-fraud scam.

“I want people to understand that, you know, everybody makes
mistakes. ... I truly think that a person’s character is determined
by their admission of their mistakes and then beyond that, what do
I do about it?” Jones said via satellite from Austin, Texas, where
she lives. “How can I change the lives of people? How can I use my
story to change the life of a young person?”

Once the most celebrated female athlete in the world, Jones won
three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

After long denying she ever had used performance-enhancing
drugs, Jones admitted last October she lied to federal
investigators in November 2003, acknowledging she took the designer
steroid “the clear” from September 2000 to July 2001. “The
clear” has been linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative,
the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional

Winfrey pressed Jones on the repeated, impassioned denials she
made over the years. “You knew at that time, you knew were lying,
right?” Winfrey said.

“I made a mistake. I made the choice, at that time, to protect
myself, to protect my family,” Jones said. “And now I’ve paid the
consequences dearly.”

Jones said she hasn’t told her 4-year-old son yet that she’s
going to prison. She also has a younger son. She has until March 11
to surrender.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gymnasts Shawn Johnson, Paul Hamm headline American Cup at N.Y.

NEW YORK (AP) — Defending world champion Shawn Johnson and
defending Olympic champion Paul Hamm will be featured at the
American Cup, one of the top gymnastics meets in the leadup to the
Beijing Olympics.

World beam champion Nastia Liukin, Shayla Worley and Jonathan
Horton, a fourth-place finisher in last year’s all-around at
worlds, are the other Americans slated to compete at Madison Square
Garden on March 1.

It will mark the first international event for Hamm, who is
coming back after a three-year retirement from competition
following his gold-medal performance in Athens in 2004. Hamm, who
competed on floor and pommel horse at nationals last August, is
scheduled for his first full competition next month at Winter
Cup. It’s a ranking meet leading up to nationals in May.

Johnson established herself as the favorite for Beijing with her
victory at worlds last year, becoming the fourth U.S. woman to win
the world championship in the all-around. Liukin is expected to
challenge Johnson, and their meeting at American Cup will be the
first of several between the teammates this year.

Fabian Hambuechen of Germany, who wowed the home crowd by
winning the all-around silver medal at worlds last year, is
expected to perform, along with last year’s bronze medalist,
Hisashi Mizutori of Japan. The rest of the international field has
not been announced.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

U.S. Men Sweep Puerto Rico to Win Pool at Olympic Volleyball Qualifier

News Services

Determined not to let history repeat itself, the U.S. Men’s national volleyball team defeated Puerto Rico in straight sets (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) late Tuesday to win its pool and advance to the semifinals of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Championship at Hector Sola Bezares Coliseum in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Team USA (3-0) rested on Wednesday while Puerto Rico (2-1) played Mexico (1-2) and Cuba (2-1) played Dominican Republic (1-2) in the quarterfinals.

On Thursday, the U.S. Men and Canada will play the winners of each of the quarterfinals in the semifinals.

The tournament winner will qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The United States came close to qualifying for Beijing at the 2007 FIVB World Cup. However, Puerto Rico upset Team USA and the United States went on to finish fourth.

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico put up another fight, taking the lead in all three sets. But the U.S. Men were determined to win and found a way to come back every time they needed to. Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii) led the U.S. scorers with 14 points on 10 kills and a match-high four blocks. Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) added 12 points 11 kills and one block.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gold medal-winning skater, Hamill, being treated for breast cancer

BALTIMORE — Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill is
undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Hamill said in a statement Friday that she is being treated at
the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. The prognosis is
favorable, but the 51-year-old Hamill said she will miss some of
the “Broadway on Ice” tour while she is having treatment.

Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, one of Hamill’s good
friends, will fill in for her, beginning Saturday night in
Sarasota, Fla. Hamill said she hopes to rejoin the tour in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., where it has shows Jan. 16-17.

Then 19, Hamill became America’s sweetheart and a fashion icon
when she won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. Her bright smile
and bubbly personality made her a marketing dream — she was once
listed as the “Most Trusted Sports Figure in America” by Ladies
Home Journal — and her trademark wedge haircut sent girls across
the country flocking to the hairdresser.

Hamill is one of seven U.S. women to win the Olympic gold
medal. She also was a three-time U.S. champion and won the world title in
1976, and she has been inducted into both the U.S. and World Figure
Skating halls of fame.

Hamill turned professional after winning the 1976 world
championships. She joined the Ice Capades in 1977, and headlined
that tour for eight years.

Hamill isn’t the first Olympic champion to have cancer. Peggy
Fleming, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist who went to Colorado College, also had breast
cancer. She was diagnosed in 1998, but is cancer free and is an
advocate for research and awareness. Scott Hamilton, the 1984 men’s
champion, was treated for testicular cancer in 1997.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

China addresses food safety, beggars

By the Associated Press

BEIJING — China, which has been plagued by food safety
problems, will set up a center to monitor food standards at the
Summer Olympics, state media reported Thursday.

The Olympic Food Safety Command Center will tackle the task
during the Aug. 8-24 Games and deal with any food-related
emergencies, Xinhua News Agency quoted Zhang Zhikuan, head of the
Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau, as saying.

Xinhua said food supplied for the Olympics will be checked
against specific technical standards.

“Precautions must be taken to avert any trace of terrorist
attacks on our food supply chain,” Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

Problems in China’s food supply are common, due to lax standards
and improper use of chemicals, preservatives or drugs.

Such concerns were heightened last year after some Chinese food
exports, such as seafood, were found to be contaminated with
dangerous chemicals.

BEIJING — Beijing has launched a campaign to remove beggars
and unlicensed sellers from Tiananmen Square and a major street
running through the center of the city in the run-up to the Olympic
Games, state media reported Thursday.

Beggars and unlicensed peddlers will be fined and have their
goods confiscated, Xinhua News Agency said.

The crackdown also will focus on Chang’an Avenue, the city’s
major east-west artery that cuts across the top of the square.

Tiananmen is a major tourist attraction and visitors are
constantly accosted by beggars and people selling maps or fake
goods such as watches.

Xinhua quoted Yu Hongyuan, deputy director with the Beijing city
police, as saying the around-the-clock patrols were aimed at
uprooting illegal activities and building a “harmonious, civilized
and sound” environment for the Olympic Games.

Police already have started using sniffer dogs to detect
fireworks and other explosive substances on Beijing’s subway
stations ahead of the Olympics, which start Aug. 8.