SBD/Issue 222/Olympics

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  • USOC, Seeking To Appease China, Neglects To Rally Behind Athletes

    USOC Receives Criticism For Stance
    Taken Over China Revoking Cheek's Visa
    USOC leaders "apparently are so determined to advance Chicago's 2016 Games bid that they will do anything to avoid offending their Chinese hosts, even if that means throwing U.S. Olympians, past and present, under the bus," according to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Philip Hersh, who writes under the header, "USOC's Wobbly Stance: American Officials Try Hard To Please Chinese Hosts, Even At The Expense Of One Of Their Own Beacons." The "backdrop to the USOC's stance" is a "combination of antipathy toward the Bush administration, a haughty insistence that the Olympics depend entirely on U.S. sponsorship money and intermittent USOC scandals lasting until 2003 that undermined [N.Y.'s] already vainglorious attempt to win the 2012 Games." The USOC "badly needs the money and interest another Olympics in the U.S. would generate, so it will make whatever compromises are needed to bolster Chicago's bid." After the Chinese government Tuesday revoked the visa of U.S. Gold Medal-winning speed skater and human rights group Team Darfur co-Founder Joey Cheek, USOC officials yesterday dismissed the move as a "matter between the Chinese government and a private citizen." USOC CEO Jim Scherr "showed no outrage over China's decision to revoke Cheek's visa," nor did the USOC "pledge to help get Cheek into China other than to say it has asked the U.S. Embassy for information." And "image protection meant the USOC immediately tried to distance itself from the pollution-mask controversy cause when four of its cyclists wore the masks upon arrival Tuesday in Beijing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/7). In California, Scott Reid wrote it "should also come as no surprise the [USOC] wasted no time in throwing Cheek under the bus." Cheek is an "obvious threat to global security. Or at least to the USOC and Chicago's aspirations to host [the] Olympics in 2016. The USOC doesn't want or need an American hero rocking the boat while it tries to keep Chicago's pipedream afloat" (OCREGISTER.com, 8/6).

    ABANDONED MAN: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan, on Scherr's "lukewarm defense of Cheek," writes, "No 'We stand with Joey.' Not a hint of 'He's ours, and he's to be lauded for his efforts.' No, just Citizen Cheek." Brennan adds, "The USOC is not a political organization, but it does represent a country of many freedoms, and it must do better than that in the next 2 1/2 weeks." The USOC leaders "would do well to follow the example of the U.S. athletes," who chose track and field athlete Lopez Lomong to carry the U.S. flag at tomorrow's Opening Ceremony. Lomong, a Sudanese refugee, is a member of Team Darfur (USA TODAY, 8/7). A USA TODAY editorial states the USOC "shamefully failed to speak out for Cheek. ... Instead, it said the matter was 'between this government and Joey as a private citizen'" (USA TODAY, 8/7). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes of the Cheek controversy, "Give the USOC some credit for asking the U.S. embassy to look into it." But "why not stand up for Cheek publicly? Why distance yourself by saying he's not with us?" USOC Chair Peter Ueberroth: "We're not anybody's State Department. We're not trying to change the world. If we can work more toward world peace, it'll be somehow wrapped in the Olympic flag." Meanwhile, Habib adds the USOC's handling of the U.S. cyclists wearing masks was "as curious as its non-reaction to the treatment" of Cheek. Athletes "had been told they could wear the masks if they were concerned about Beijing's smog," and they "still are being told they're free to wear them if they like." Habib: "To listen to USOC and [IOC] officials, the smog situation isn't a problem" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/7).

    Writer Feels Ueberroth's Comments
    Made Him Sound Like BOCOG Pitchman
    NOT ROCKING THE BOAT: SI.com's Selena Roberts wrote USOC officials are "all but sitting on the knee of the host city, in ventriloquist doll pose, issuing talking points made in China." USOC execs have "said exactly what Beijing organizers wanted them to say until it was actually un-American." The Olympics are "not a masquerade ball where every country dresses up like propaganda tools and plays along with the host's ideology for 17 days." So why then did Ueberroth "sound like a pitch man for the new China's old ways?" One reason for the USOC to "play nice with China" is the "fear of retribution for criticizing the Beijing Games." The U.S. already is "on edge about the medal count, knowing they could fall short of expectations and short of China, and would not want to compromise the outcome of any event by agitating the hosts" (SI.com, 8/6). Ueberroth yesterday said, "We're not here as politicians ... and it's not our job." In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos writes under the header, "USOC Playing The Diplomatic Game." Hairopoulos: "Of all the things we Americans find difficult to stomach in China, our own [USOC's] diplomacy may be hardest of all" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/7). In Denver, Scott Monserud writes the USOC is "clearly wishing to not upset their host" (DENVER POST, 8/7).

    CHEEK ON CHEEK: Cheek has been making the media rounds since his visa was revoked. NBC's Meredith Vieira said, "I assume that the Chinese government would feel that you’re almost poking it in the eye with a stick bringing this up now during the Olympics.” Cheek replied, “Certainly, I’m sure that’s the way they feel, but I think it’s actually part of a much broader effort. … There’s no mandate for (Team Darfur athletes) to speak out about China’s connection (to Darfur).” He added Team Darfur has "always followed the absolute letter of the law when it comes to IOC rules" ("Today," NBC, 8/7). Cheek said the fact his visa was denied is "more evidence of a much deeper and more systemic effort by the Chinese government to silence any form of criticism." Cheek said that "more worrisome ... was recent word that four Beijing-bound athletes 'had been told by their national Olympic committees that if they remain part of Team Darfur they will be treated as suspect individuals in China, subject to extra security procedures and scrutiny'" (L.A. TIMES, 8/7). Cheek added, "My visa being revoked is actually sort of endemic of a much broader effort by China to silence anyone before they even come to the Olympics. So that I find gravely concerning” ("World News," ABC, 8/6). More Cheek: "Clearly, the IOC has become ineffectual at any sort of higher moral standard. ... The problem with the IOC is it's not a transparent body at all” (“Happy Hour,” Fox Business, 8/6).

    STATE OF A NATION: A WASHINGTON TIMES editorial states China's "last-minute revocation of a visa for Joey Cheek ... is an affront to America and the spirit of the Olympic Games." This latest incident "speaks volumes about a nation that sees the Games as a form of self-aggrandizement." China is "tarnishing the spirit of the Games" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/7). The USA TODAY editorial states "actions such as the one taken against Cheek cast a vision of an insecure, autocratic regime. ... So the supreme irony is that the Chinese have achieved the opposite of what they intended: huge attention on both Cheek and his cause" (USA TODAY, 8/7).

    Scherr Says USOC Making Sure Athletes 
    Understand How Their Actions Are Perceived
    MASKING THE REALITY: Scherr said of the USOC's response to the four cyclists who wore the air masks, "We're making sure the athletes understand how their actions are perceived by the host country." BOCOG Dir of Media Operations Sun Weijia "would not directly answer whether [BOCOG] officials were insulted by the cyclists' decision." Sun: "We have to explain that looks can be deceiving, and that it looks like fog, but actually the air quality is good." U.S. cyclist Mike Friedman, who was among the cyclists wearing masks, said, "I'm not sorry for wearing the masks at all. I'm just very sorry that people thought it was some political statement. It was so, so far from that. It was just so I could prepare for competition in the best way I could" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes the USOC "helped to raise the pollution issue and is now having a hard time making it disappear. ... At this juncture, it is beginning to look as if the media focus on this issue might have been a bit overblown." In the Athletes' Village, "not a single athlete was seen on Tuesday with such a mask," as most are "complaining more about the heat and humidity than the pollution." And it "isn't altogether clear whether these relatively unsophisticated filtering masks are that effective in any case." U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps said of the air quality in Beijing, "I've been here three times the last few years and haven't noticed anything" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/7). U.S. softball P Jennie Finch added the air quality “hasn’t affected us at all” (“Money for Breakfast,” Fox Business, 8/7).

    DAMAGE ALREADY DONE: In Philadelphia, Marcus Hayes writes of the cyclists wearing masks in the airport, "For world-class athletes, is retrieving baggage all that strenuous?" The U.S. athletes "should be pretty red in the face" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/7). ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski: “They were in baggage claim. It’s not like there’s a huge pollution risk when you’re picking up your luggage. I thought it was embarrassing to them and they embarrassed and showed up the Chinese.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: “It was an embarrassment to us. Let’s stay classy, America. … It was a ridiculous stunt. They were trying to bring attention to themselves” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/6). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said it is "too late" for the cyclists to apologize for wearing the masks. Adande: "Those images are worldwide, those are already the lasting images of the Games” (“PTI,” ESPN, 8/6).

    THEY MIGHT HAVE HAD A POINT: In London, Simon Turnbull writes the cyclists "might not have been as stupid as they looked." Turnbull yesterday attempted a five-mile run through Beijing, but the "steady five-miler turned into a slog of less than three miles." Turnbull: "By the time I got back to the media village, after just 25 minutes of running, my face was flushed with a purple haze and my body was drained and lathered" (London INDEPENDENT, 8/7). Canada Gold Medal-winning speed skater Clara Hughes, who is working for the CBC during the Games, also attempted a run in Beijing yesterday. Hughes: "I could feel the effects of the air quality and the heat and humidity on my lungs, on my mucous membranes, everything. I think we're definitely going to see a lot of athletes detonating before they even get to the start line because they're not going to adapt their training and their preparation." CBC commentator Barney Williams, whose wife is on the Canadian Women's rowing team, said that "some athletes on the team are experiencing breathing problems after having been [in Beijing] for about a week" (TORONTO STAR, 8/7). In Denver, Mark Kiszla notes front-page stories in China Daily "have repeatedly tried to paint the depressingly gray skies blue, which anybody with eyes can tell is not true" (DENVER POST, 8/7).

    WHITHER THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT: In K.C., Joe Posnanski writes in a front-page piece it is "striking how much less fun sports have become the last few years." Posnanski: "Here we are in China, a couple of days before the Olympics begin, and there just isn't much talk about, you know, the Olympics. It seems like every story you hear is about pollution or paranoia or performance enhancers or politics" (K.C. STAR, 8/7). In a special to the L.A. TIMES, Salon.com TV critic Heather Havrilesky writes, "Pulling off the traditional global pep rally that accompanies the Olympics could prove to be a little bit more difficult for NBC this time. That good old Olympic spirit, set against the backdrop of the deeply depressing realities of life in China, makes this summer's festivities feel about as uplifting and cheerful as an accidental shooting at a wedding reception" (L.A. TIMES, 8/7).

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  • Sudan Refugee, Team Darfur Member Lomong To Carry U.S. Flag

    Lomong Discusses Being U.S. Flagbearer
    This Morning On NBC's "Today"
    U.S. track & field athlete Lopez Lomong, a Sudanese refugee, yesterday was chosen by U.S. Olympic teammates to carry the U.S. flag at tomorrow's Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games, a move that "will cast an additional spotlight on the controversy over humanitarian abuses" in Darfur, according to Shipley & Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. Lomong is an active member of Team Darfur, a "group of athletes that aims to raise awareness about the conflict in Sudan and has been pressing China to do more to help end the fighting." The selection of Lomong came "just hours after the Chinese government rescinded the visa" of U.S. Gold Medal-winning speed skater and human rights group Team Darfur co-Founder Joey Cheek (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). Cheek said of the selection, "I think it's a brilliant story, regardless of the Darfur connection" ("Today," NBC, 8/7). USA TODAY's Lloyd & Patrick note it is "unclear what, if anything, Lomong might say at a Friday news conference about the situation in Darfur" (USA TODAY, 8/7).

    MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE? In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes there is "no more perfect choice" than Lomong to serve as flag bearer, both because of his "achievements and because of the pitch-perfect message of defiance it represents" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/7). In Seattle, Art Thiel writes the choice "seems an inspired one among those American athletes who want to make a political statement without being rude to their extraordinarily hospitable hosts." Thiel: "No one says it's anything more than a coincidence. But rarely in Olympic politics are things as they seem" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 8/7). REUTERS' Simon Denyer writes Lomong’s story "is an inspiring one," but it "could also be interpreted as a political choice, a statement to the governments of Sudan and China" (REUTERS.com, 8/7). REUTERS' Mitch Phillips wrote the selection is "likely to provoke extensive debate about China's relations with Sudan" and "could embarrass" both countries (REUTERS, 8/6).

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  • Bird's Nest, Water Cube Impress, But Other Facilities Dissapoint

    Critic Feels Venues Like Main
    Basketball Facility Lacking In Style
    The stadiums and facilities designed for the Beijing Games "are a very mixed collection of buildings," according to WASHINGTON POST culture critic Philip Kennicott, who writes under the subhead, "Amid China's Dull Olympics Architecture, In A City More Gray Than Green, Two Imports Shine." The Beijing National Stadium and the National Aquatics Centre are "two architectural gems." But many of the 37 "new, rehabilitated or temporary facilities spread across Beijing and China ... have been built so quickly and haphazardly that they look cheap." Some temporary sites, including the archery field, "are embarrassingly functional." The taekwondo stadium, which was built to serve as a permanent sports facility, "is covered with red metal panels that make its front oppressive," and many of the venue's spaces "feel dark and enclosed." The main basketball facility, the Wukesong Indoor Stadium, "is also covered with metal panels," and its windows are also covered. There is "no one overriding sense of style to the new venues." Kennicott: "The architecture of the Olympics encapsulates the state of architecture in China: The glory projects are not particularly Chinese, and much of what is Chinese is not particularly good. Put another way, if it isn't expensive, it probably isn't worth a second glance" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). In London, Richard Williams writes under the header, "From Listless Grey To Silvery Gleam, The Bird's Nest Is A Perfect Symbol. China's New National Stadium Unwittingly Reflects All The Seemingly Contradictory Facets Of These Games" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 8/7). But in Boston, Bob Ryan writes the Chinese are "not messing around," as they "have constructed some magnificent facilities." The Water Cube is "vying with the Bird's Nest for the gold medal in building architecture" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/7).

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  • Athletes, Media Unanimously Praise Beijing Accommodations

    Phelps Calls Olympic Village Best
    Ever From Athlete's Perspective
    Like most of the athletes competing in the Beijing Games, the American Olympians are "giving a universal thumbs-up to the Olympic Village, which is said to be the best ever," according to John Powers of the BOSTON GLOBE. U.S. gymnast Jonathan Horton: "We've got streams and bridges and fishes in the pond. It's absolutely gorgeous." U.S. swimmer Dara Torres added, "It's like being at a Marriott" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/7). In K.C., Mechelle Voepel writes under the header, "U.S. Olympic Contingent Pleased With China's Preparations." U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps said that this "appeared to be the best village yet from the athletes' perspective." The Olympians "like the rooms, the food, the aesthetics and the camaraderie" (K.C. STAR, 8/7). In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount writes the media village in Beijing is the "Ritz-Carlton of Olympic media villages, far better than any I've seen in five previous Olympics" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 8/7). In Toronto, Steve Simmons upon arriving in Beijing writes, "It is a terrific first impression after all the trepidation." Simmons: "I came here prepared for the worst and have come away with a first impression that these Games will stun people in so many different ways" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7). NBC's "Today" show featured a discussion about the Olympic green, with NBC's Matt Lauer saying, “It’s one of the prettiest Olympic greens that we’ve ever seen.” NBC's Meredith Vieira, who was in Beijing a year ago and saw the Olympic construction efforts, said of the finished product, “I never would have imagined how spectacular it really is” ("Today," NBC, 8/7).

    China Keeping Tight Rein On
    Security At Tiananmen Square 
    TAKING CONTROL: In Toronto, Thane Burnett writes Beijing officials have "kept more people out than allowed in." Beijing's tourism bureau estimated that 450,000 visitors will visit the city this month, which is "the same as a year ago." In the run-up to the Games, "there's been a drop of 20%" in tourism, but Burnett writes that is the "cost officials are willing to pay for control" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7). In St. Petersburg, Gary Shelton writes the security force around Beijing is "as obvious as a flexed muscle." Every "few hundred yards, you can see soldiers, often standing at attention. Police squad cars drive with their flashers on. On the subway there are older women with red armbands, the Chinese version of the Guardian Angels." Shelton: "And you still wonder: Is it enough?" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/7). A BUFFALO NEWS editorial states, "The city is filled with paramilitary troops and volunteer police wearing armbands that bring memories of the Red Guards" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/7). NBC’s Richard Engel was given "exclusive access" to the Beijing security command center, where all security measures are monitored, and he noted, "Police in this command center control about 21,000 cameras across Beijing.” China "is tolerating no embarrassment. ... The biggest danger for China may be losing face” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 8/6).

    IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In DC, Edward Cody writes in a front-page piece developments in Beijing yesterday, "particularly the protests of foreigners, highlighted the difficulties facing China's Communist Party rulers as they try to show television viewers in China and the world a prosperous, harmonious country during the celebrations, even at the cost of heavy-handed security restrictions." The Chinese who "might be tempted to protest during the Games ... have been largely cowed into silence by a security crackdown that has left thousands in detention, under house arrest or banned from travel to Beijing." However, foreigners, "under consular protection and running much less risk of imprisonment, have pushed forward with plans to take advantage of China's moment in the sun" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). Students For A Free Tibet Exec Dir John Hocevar said, “We knew that security was going to be tough, but really, no matter how much they put into security you can’t squash the truth, you can’t stop protests completely” (“The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” PBS, 8/6).

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  • LOCOG Again Making Plans To Scale Back 2012 Olympic Village

    Deighton Says London Will Have
    Smaller Venues Than Beijing Olympics
    LOCOG officials have agreed to reduce the size of the athletes' village for the London Olympics by a "further 500 apartments to stem rising costs," according to Bond & Pocock of the London TELEGRAPH. The village already has been "scaled back by a third from the 4,200 flats originally planned due to problems in raising private finance" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 8/7). LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton yesterday in a presentation to IOC members in Beijing said that the "biggest difference between Beijing and London would be the scale of the venues," as London "will have more temporary facilities." Deighton: "The beauty is in the contrast. The Beijing Games could end up being unique. I'm not sure how many other countries would have the control of resources to be able to put them behind an event like this. I think London is much more likely to be the model for Games in the future." Deighton added that LOCOG has "brought more than 100 people to Beijing to gain 'the battle experience' of the Games" (LONDON TIMES, 8/7). REUTERS' Catherine Bremer notes London has a budget of about US$18.15B for the 2012 Games, "less than half what Beijing has spent, and finding private financing for projects such as the athletes' village has grown harder as the global credit crunch bites" (REUTERS, 8/7).

    ENJOY THE RIDE: In Chicago, Kathy Bergen reports Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in his first full day in Beijing yesterday rode on the city's "state-of-the-art subway," which "signaled just how badly he wants to polish Chicago's transit system, with federal help, as part" of the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/7).

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  • Canadian Fashion Designer's Olympic Collection Attracts Media

    Tu Ly's Olympic Collection
    Canadian fashion designer Tu Ly's collection for Canadian Olympic athletes, which is being sold at Canadian department stores, "has become a target of derision among newspapers, bloggers, Canadian talk-show hosts, and sports pundits," according to Christopher Muther of the BOSTON GLOBE. The "specific pieces that have Canadians talking are pants and hoodies that are made from a fabric print that Ly calls 'urban camouflage.'" The red pattern incorporates the Canadian maple leaf, the "number eight, which is a symbol of the Olympic games in Beijing, along with symbols culled from Chinese poster art and apocathary labels." The fabric is "used in clothes that the Canadian team will wear in the Olympic village." Elle Canada Senior Editor Laura deCarufel said of the collection, "I've heard mixed response to the uniforms, but I've heard from more people who love them than hate them. ... There are some pieces in this collection that are just lovely. You could wear it, and it doesn't look like Olympic wear." Muther notes apparel supplier Hudson's Bay Co. is "behind Canada's uniforms, which allowed [Ly] to take a different approach to his design" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/7).

    DRESS TO IMPRESS: In Houston, Clifford Pugh reports the fashion competition at the Beijing Games "seems especially heated, as clothing manufacturers use the games to introduce themselves to China's vast, increasingly prosperous population." U.S. athletes' outfits were designed by Ralph Lauren and the "closing ceremony outfits and Village attire are already available at Macy's and other outlets," ranging from $49.50-165. However, athletes "won't be the only ones in designer wear." Ports 1961 "will dress four female NBC commentators for the games" -- Mary Carillo, Melissa Stark, Alex Flanagan and Lindsay Czarniak. All four "will wear casual sportswear in muted colors of gray and beige" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/7).

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  • CAS Rules Soccer Clubs Can Keep Players From Competing In Beijing

    Clubs Do Not Have To
    Release Players For Olympics
    The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that three of Europe's top soccer clubs "can prevent their players from competing in the Beijing Olympics," a decision that "could have broad implications for the international sports business," according to Jon Weinbach of The WALL STREET JOURNAL. In its ruling, a three-person CAS panel wrote that FIFA's "omission of the Olympic tournament from its calendar meant that the club's 'had no legal obligation' to release their players" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/7). In N.Y., Bell & Rachman report those three clubs -- La Liga's FC Barcelona, Bundesliga's Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 -- "say they are likely to allow their players to compete anyway." The case was the "latest stage in a tug of war between clubs and countries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7). The AP's Stephen Wilson reports FIFA President Sepp Blatter today "launched an angry diatribe" at the CAS' decision during an IOC general assembly meeting. Blatter: "I gulped when I heard that decision. It's a rather dramatic situation....If all the national squads will lose players, if clubs force them to return home, we simply will not have an Olympic football tournament here in Beijing. We could do beach soccer or a five-a-side tournament. That would be very sad and the world would not understand it" (AP, 8/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Martin Rogers wrote the ruling by the CAS "threatens to permanently change the face of Olympic soccer." The decision is "likely to open the floodgates for future withdrawals of the world's top talent" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/6). NBC's JP Dellacamera said FIFA simply is "going to have to make (the Olympics) part of (its) international calendar” (MSNBC, 8/7).

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  • Olympic People & Personalities: Yao Ming To Carry China's Flag

    Yao To Once Again Be Chinese
    Flagbearer During Opening Ceremony
    The Chinese Olympic Committee today announced that Rockets and China C YAO MING will carry the Chinese flag during tomorrow's Opening Ceremony (WSJ.com, 8/7). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Jere Longman writes many expect Chinese hurdler LIU XIANG will "play a visible role" in the Opening Ceremony, which could include lighting the Olympic cauldron. Longman notes "dramatic public appearances by Liu have been rare since May 23, when he won the 110-meter hurdles at a rehearsal" at the Beijing National Stadium (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).

    STARTING FIVE: Yao is not the only current or former NBAer to be selected as a flag bearer tomorrow night -- Spurs G MANU GINOBILI (Argentina), former Pacers G SARUNAS JASIKEVICIUS (Lithuania), Jazz F ANDREI KIRILENKO (Russia) and Mavericks F DIRK NOWITZKI (Germany) will do the honors for their respective countries. Nowitzki: "It shows that Basketball is getting bigger all over the world" (FIBA.com, 8/7).

    SERVE & RALLY: Swiss tennis player ROGER FEDERER said that protests over Tibet and China's human rights record "had not affected his thinking over whether to compete in Beijing." Federer: "I know the issues but there was never a question about taking part in the Olympic Games. I was disappointed what happened to the torch when it came to Europe and particularly Paris and London. It's not nice to see those things. It's supposed to be a celebration, right? I hope the Olympics will improve getting to know the Chinese people and the other way around so hopefully it will be good for everybody" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 8/7).

    NAMES: In Ft. Lauderdale, Sharon Robb reports U.S. swimmer DARA TORRES is appearing in a Lexus commercial in the South Florida region and a "clothing line has approached" her (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/7)....In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "You can't go five blocks in Beijing without seeing [U.S. swimmer MICHAEL] PHELPS smiling back at you from a bus stop or a billboard" (N.Y. POST, 8/7)....The IOC today elected former Moroccan hurdler NAWAL EL MOUTAWAKEL to its Exec Board, making her the "highest-ranking woman in the Olympic movement and the first woman from a Muslim nation on the rule-making body" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7)....In Australia, Jacquelin Magnay reported IOC Press Commission Chair KEVAN GOSPER "may struggle to retain" his position amid the "fallout from China's internet censorship row." Gosper's public references to IOC President JACQUES ROGGE and his "suspicions of a deal having been done between the IOC and Chinese authorities have not gone down well." One IOC source said of Gosper, "The second Kevan mentioned [Rogge] as having gone behind his back, that was it, his days are numbered, we will be looking for a new press chief" (CANBERRATIMES.com, 8/3).

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  • On The Ground In Beijing: GWU Professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti

    Neirotti Providing On The Ground
    Perspective Of Beijing During Olympics
    Today we continue our discussion with Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor of tourism & sports management at George Washington Univ. Delpy Neirotti, who arrived in Beijing on Monday, has been to 13 Olympic Games. This time around, she's leading a group of 28 students to China from August 4-24. She gave us her initial thoughts of Beijing via e-mail yesterday.

    Q: What's the first thing that strikes you about Beijing?

    Delpy Neirotti: The new airport is massive and architecturally striking. There were people to greet the media immediately outside the airplane door, not even at the gate. I breezed through customs, although two major United flights landed at the same time.

    Q: Much has been made about the air quality in Beijing. How do you find it to be and will it have an impact on the Games?

    Delpy Neirotti: The air is cleaner than my last visit to Beijing in October of 2007, and far better than four years ago when lead gas was still being pumped. By late afternoon [yesterday], I could actually see blue skies. There is still an overcast feel, but by no means is it deadly for athletes.

    Neirotti Says Beijing Olympic Logo, Samsung 
    Have Visual Presence Throughout City
    Q: What brand has emerged as having the most noticeable presence?

    Delpy Neirotti: The Olympic brand is really what stands out. The slogan "One World One Dream" and the 2008 Beijing Olympic logo is everywhere. Beyond general Olympic branding, Coca-Cola and Samsung seem to stand out along with national sponsors, such as China Mobile and China Bank. Visa had a visitor kiosk at the airport distributing some maps. Compared to other Games, it seems as if commercialism is low key. I am waiting to see if all of the sponsors will have wrapped buses.

    Q: What is the initial buzz in the city around the Games?

    Delpy Neirotti: It seems as if the local citizens are very excited about the Games. I asked one person about directions and he offered to take me there in his private car. The entire ride he kept saying in broken English, "Olympics good, friends around the world." I, of course, gave him a GW Olympic pin for his kind hospitality.

    Neirotti Compares Subway Crowds As
    Being Similar To Rush Hour In DC, N.Y.
    Q: How easy is it to get around?

    Delpy Neirotti: Taxies are hit or miss in terms of getting a driver who can read the address of where you want to go [even though it is written in Chinese with a map showing the location]. I was trying to get to a sponsor's five-star hotel and the driver tried to drop me off at the zoo, even though the directions and map clearly identified a hotel. The subways are crowded [same as rush hour in Washington, D.C., or New York City], but easy to figure out. The new line to the Olympic Green is very modern.

    Q: What has been most shocking and most surprising for you?

    Delpy Neirotti: Thus far, the language has been the most frustrating part of the Olympic experience. The staff in our youth hostel seem to speak more English than employees at the five-star hotels, which could be a big problem for sponsor guests. I assume it will be this way at venues. Using some basic hand gestures does not even seem to help as they just look at you like you are crazy. With that said, I can say only two words in Mandarin -- "hello" and "thank you" -- so I do not have much room to complain.

    Neirotti Hopes Street Sweepers
    Are Being Paid For Their Efforts
    Q: Any other thoughts?

    Delpy Neirotti: The torch relay for these Games has had to dramatically change. The length of each torch bearer is shorter and it is run in a secluded location [e.g., in a closed amusement park]. With so many people in Beijing, all very interested in touching or feeling part of the Games, it could be a logistical and safety issue if streets were closed for the public to view. Unfortunately, I always felt this was one of the most exciting parts of the Games, seeing the torch run through the city and light up the faces and Olympic enthusiasm of the locals.

    The city has definitely been beautified with flowers and Olympic "welcome" signage throughout. You can also see many street cleaners. Here is a photo of a street sweeper. The band around his arm said Olympic volunteer, but I certainly hope this person is being paid. Tonight starts all the parties. I will be attending Casa Brazil and Olympic Reunion Center openings.

    Do you have a question for Lisa? If so, e-mail us at beijinggames@sportsbusinessdaily.com.

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  • Olympic Notes

    British Olympic Association Chair Colin Moynihan said that the "internationalization of the Olympic Games will become increasingly a challenge for the IOC." Moynihan: "I think what we saw in the 20th century, with one or two exceptions like so, was what I called a Europe-centric, either an American or European, Games. What [IOC President Jacques] Rogge has decided to do is to internationalize the Games, and that is why it's so important the Games is coming to Beijing. ... I am sure BOCOG will put on a great Games. But it would be impossible for everything to be perfect" (XINHUANET.com, 8/7).

    HANDLE WITH CARE: NBC's “Today” show this morning gave viewers a tour around their set in Beijing, with NBC's Matt Lauer noting it was the same set used for the ’04 Athens Games. NBC's Meredith Vieira: “Getting it here was not easy. It was shipped over the water (in) four big containers, took five weeks to get here, 15 crew members to put it together and they put it together in a week-and-a-half” ("Today," NBC, 8/7)....NBC Olympics announced this morning it has surpassed $1B in ad revenue for the Beijing Games (NBC)....THE DAILY is running an online poll asking readers what Nielsen rating they think NBC will average in primetime for Olympic coverage. To vote, please visit SportsBusinessDaily.com.

    A GROWING PROBLEM? Olympic officials acknowledged that the "use of erectile dysfunction drugs are becoming the rage among some athletes looking for an edge." In Toronto, Rob Longley notes it is becoming a "sexy story" as the Games officially begin tomorrow. But Viagra is the "least of the doping issues facing the IOC because, as of now, its use is legal, though [WADA] is aggressively monitoring its potential benefits" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7).

    NOTES: In L.A. Kevin Baxter reports as "part of a series of moves aimed at erasing the stain of scandal from Olympic boxing, oversized video monitors will be placed around the ring so that fans and the media can monitor the judging as the bouts progress," while "smaller monitors will be placed in each corner so trainers can keep score as well" (L.A. TIMES, 8/7)....TiVo is teaming with Visa "on a Summer Games guide that lets subscribers choose from a list of sports they want recorded." However, because NBC "puts programming in blocks, you'll get coverage of your chosen sports along with what likely will be hours of other events" (USA TODAY, 8/7).

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  • Check The Latest Headlines From Beijing At SBD/SBJ's Olympic Site

    SportsBusiness Daily/SportsBusiness Journal has launched a free web site exclusively geared to the Summer Games that will feature news, video, blogs and much more from Beijing. See the site today at www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/beijinggames for the following news:
     

     
    *Catching Up With Sheryl Shade, Agent For the Hamm Brothers

    *Visa Olympians Reunion Center Opening Draws a Royal Crowd

    *McDonald’s Is Loving It On Beijing’s Olympic Green

    *Coke, Reebok Rally Around Local Hero Yao Ming

    *SportsMark Promotes Two Top Executives

    *Tripp Mickle’s Blog: One Long Flight, Two Crazy College Kids

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