SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Real Madrid land sale to slay debt

Spanish soccer team Real Madrid has practically wiped out its huge debt load by approving the sale of the land where the team has its training fields. The club estimates the eventual value of the deal at nearly $300 million, more than enough to give the club a fresh financial start. When the debt total was most recently mentioned by Florentino Pérez, the Real chairman, he estimated it at $180 million. The deal involves a tradeoff with regional and local government bodies, which have agreed to relax zoning laws on the commercial use of the property at Paseo de la Castellana. About 20 percent of the land would be converted into office buildings, which the club will be able to sell to private investors. In exchange, the government will be given the remaining 80 percent of the land to build a public park with a sports arena as part of Spain's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

 BLIMPCAM ARRIVES: Like Q's laboratory in the James Bond movies, the camera experts at British public broadcaster BBC love to invent new gadgets. The latest results were introduced during coverage of the debut bout by British Olympic gold-medal heavyweight Audley Harrison, who beat Michael Middleton on May 19. The Refcam is a mini-radio camera tucked into the referee's top pocket. The Ringcam, a remote-controlled camera, is attached to the overhead lighting. The Blimpcam, a camera attached to a fan-powered blimp (about 15 feet by 6 feet) that flies around the arena at 3 mph.

  FIAT FIRST: Paolo Cantarella, managing director of Fiat, is the first president of the company being set by auto manufacturers to launch a new Formula One series starting in 2008. BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Renault and Fiat have signed a deal to create the new racing company, and other makers have been invited to join. The presidency is to be rotated among the companies annually.

  ROWING THE ATLANTIC: The Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge, sponsored by insurance company Ward Evans, will launch Oct. 7 from Tenerife in the Canary Islands with a destination of Barbados. It is the first sponsorship undertaking by Ward Evans Group, which is meeting the costs of organizing and promoting the race for two-man identical boats. There are 37 teams entered, each of which is expected to spend about $75,000 on the boat and to compensate the rowers for time off work. Team sponsors are mostly small companies such as Henley Tent & Marquee Hire (the firm that puts up hospitality tents at the Henley Regatta), but include Norwegian energy and metal group Norsk Hydro and Perot Systems Europe. The prize at the end of the trip will probably be a trophy and free accommodations in Barbados, although the possibility of some cash is still being discussed.

— Jay Stuart

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