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Thursday, February 14, 2002
Updated: February 15, 9:45 PM ET
Flames and Flickers: Ask, and you'll learn firsthand news services

PAYSON, Utah -- Nine musicians from California had their bus stopped and searched by police after a convenience store clerk told officials they had asked about security checkpoints near the Olympic Games.

'Yo, what's up man?'
greets President Bush
MUSKEGON, Mich. -- "Yo, what's up, man?"

That was how Matt Kooreman greeted President Bush when U.S. speedskater Joey Cheek gave the president his cell phone during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

"I thought it was just going to be some speedskater," said Kooreman, 25.

Bush attended the opening and went up into the crowd with the U.S. athletes. He talked on several cell phones.

In response to Kooreman's greeting, Bush replied, "How are you doing? We have a bad connection. I can hardly hear you."

With that, Bush handed the phone back to Cheek, and Kooreman's discussion with the president came to an end.

"Joey was like, `Dude, do you know who you just talked to?'," said Kooreman, who received the call at his house in Salt Lake City. "And I still didn't know who it was. It just sounded like someone with a Southern accent. When he told me it was President Bush, I was pumped."

-- The Associated Press

The Alma Melodioso band from Angels Camp, Calif., which will perform at the Olympic Plaza in Park City during the Games, had stopped in Payson, 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, about noon Wednesday.

Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Doug McCleve said a clerk called police after the musicians had asked whether there were security checkpoints between Payson and Salt Lake City.

"Because we're in a heightened state of alert, we reacted, issued an all-points alert, located the bus and closed down the freeway ramp until we could investigate," McCleve said. "We have an obligation to the public to be very, very responsive right now."

The band members were cooperative and allowed police to search the bus and their personal belongings, he said.

Band member Kathy Miletich said the group expected security during their trip to Utah but did not expect to be pulled over for asking a simple question.

Kristen Skjeldal
There's been a lot of talk of all the huge crowds at the Olympics, Kristen Skjeldal of Norway knows that the men's 10k cross country event is really a lonely endeavor.

"It was a surprise and it was funny," she said. "What wasn't so funny was that they asked us what ethnic groups were on the bus and after they searched the whole bus and found some articles about terrorism, they pulled one of our guys aside and questioned him a lot."

Alma Melodioso specializes in Latin jazz, Afro Cuban and world beat flamenco music.

A ski-jumping Harry Potter
SALT LAKE CITY -- Boyish-looking Simon Ammann, the 20-year-old Swiss ski jumper who swept both individual gold medals, is suddenly a star.

Jay Leno and David Letterman have asked him to appear on their shows. A Swiss airline has called with promotional offers. But all of that will may have to wait until after the team competition Monday.

"We have been overwhelmed by these offers. It's a great honor, but I don't have an answer. We were not prepared for all of this," Ammann said. "All I did was do some ski jumping."

What about comparisons to Harry Potter?

"I've been compared to him a great deal, and it's true we do resemble each other. But I don't think there was a fairy wand waved over me," Ammann said.

John Hancock back in IOC fold in a big way
SALT LAKE CITY -- Three years after he pulled the Olympic rings off the company stationery and criticized the IOC as a corrupt body, the chairman of John Hancock financial services signed up Thursday for another four years as one of the biggest sponsors of the games.

David D'Alessandro signed a four-year extension as a partner in TOP, the International Olympic Committee's worldwide sponsorship program.

He did it in a converted railroad terminal that serves as the IOC's marketing offices for the Salt Lake City Winter Games, which were at the heart of the million-dollar bid scandal that drew D'Alessandro's ire.

Now, with changes made and a new president in place, D'Alessandro said he was pleased and proud to extend his company's deal, which reportedly costs between $45 million-$55 million.

"It's been a terrific sponsorship for us, minus the scandal," he said. "And enough progress has been made to satisfy me."

IOC official says he's surprised by comments
ATHENS, Greece -- An IOC official overseeing Greek preparations for the 2004 Games expressed surprise Thursday about angry comments by the culture minister concerning Olympic construction projects.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said earlier this week that the International Olympic Committee was mistreating Greece and the government had no obligation to build roads to please the IOC.

"We were a little bit surprised by the position he expressed," said IOC official Denis Oswald, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Salt Lake City. "We have the feeling that our position and our action has been misunderstood.

"We wanted to have the opportunity to put these things straight and avoid this misunderstanding, also among the Greek people," he said.

IOC officials have acknowledged Greek efforts to make up for three years of lost time in construction projects, but they have repeatedly warned that chronic delays have placed the 2004 Games at risk.