Bhardwaj named gymnastics captain
Mohini Bhardwaj, who is one of the oldest female gymnasts in the Athens Games at 25, was selected as captain of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.
"From a year ago, if you had taken odds on her making our Olympic team -- even the odds of making it to nationals -- she just continues to impress," USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said.
Bhardwaj was one of the United States' most talented gymnasts as a teenager, but the long hours of training burned her out. She rediscovered her love of the sport at UCLA, where she led the Bruins to two NCAA championships.
She was on the American squad that won a bronze medal at the 2001 world championships, but an elbow injury the following year seemed to end her Olympic dreams. Bhardwaj, who turns 26 on Sept. 29, decided last year she had to give it one more shot.
She was considered a long shot when she finished 12th at the U.S. championships, but climbed to sixth at the Olympic trials. She put on another impressive show at the selection camp at team coordinator Martha Karolyi's ranch last month, earning a spot on the U.S. squad.
When Karolyi announced her name, Bhardwaj burst into tears.
Bush confident about security
Former President Bush expressed confidence in Greece's plans to safeguard the Olympics and said he was certain Athens would host "historic games."
The former president, who has spent several summers touring Greek islands, arrived in Greece on Monday to head the U.S. delegation to the games that begin Friday.
"I have known all along, I've told my Greek friends that Greeks would be ready," he told reporters on the Aegean Sea island of Lesvos.
"They've had all kinds of outside, uninformed criticism and now people are going to see what I know will happen, a wonderful opening ceremony of the games, followed by some historic games themselves," Bush said.
Bush, his wife, Barbara, and granddaughters Barbara and Jenna, are staying on a private luxury vessel owned by Greek billionaire financier Spyros Latsis. His yacht Dumara, which is on its maiden voyage, is expected to dock at Athens' main port of Piraeus on Friday just before the opening ceremony.
Asked if he felt safe, the former president replied: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. We got great security, wonderful people. ... We have every confidence in them. You can't go around worrying about some crackpot that still likes Saddam Hussein. I feel very safe here."
"We will see how safety measures work in real conditions," Public Order Ministry general secretary Leonidas Evangelidis said during a security briefing in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Host Greece played the United States in the women's tournament in Iraklio, on the island of Crete, while games began in Thessaloniki, Volos in central Greece and Patras in the south.
About 400 police were guarding Thessaloniki's Kaftanzoglio Stadium as the United States beat Greece 3-0.
The measures are dwarfed by police efforts in Athens, which is using most of the $1.5 billion budgeted for security.
Ticket sales pass halfway mark -- finally
Athens organizers said they have sold half of the tickets available for the Olympics.
More than 2.6 million of the total 5.3 million tickets are sold. Officials still hope to sell at least 3.4 million.
"We've seen an increasing amount of tickets sold every day," said Michael Zacharatos, spokesman for Athens organizers. "What is important is that for most of the sports, the quarters, semis and finals are sold out and we are looking now to selling more tickets in the qualifying rounds."
Tuesday, organizers sold 89,317 tickets, with more than 21,000 going to soccer events and more than 15,000 for track and field.
"It is very important the Greek public will be in the stadiums cheering the athletes, welcoming the athletes," Zacharatos said.
Couch potatoes go for gold
Kevin Keveaney of Knoxville, Tenn., hopes to reclaim his former world record for endurance television viewing this weekend. He'll join 21 rivals in an Olympic viewing marathon orchestrated by NBC television at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.
It starts with Friday night's opening ceremony. Keveaney promised he'd be ready.
"I will be retreating to the desert for a two-week vision quest, communing with the petroglyphs -- man's first TV -- and draining my mind of summer reruns so I might approach this contest with spirit refreshed and eyes anew," he told NBC.
If the attempt is successful, the lucky viewer will claim the record just past 10 p.m. Sunday. Should any of those bleary-eyed competitors choose to keep going, it won't be a problem with NBC's unprecedented saturation coverage.
The current record for consecutive hours watching TV, as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, was set recently in Germany at 50 hours and 5 minutes. Keveaney's former record of 46 hours, 30 minutes and 50 seconds, remains the best by an American.
He set the mark in 2001 in New York City.
Both Kenyan boxers out
Both of Kenya's boxers are out of the Olympics, one after a violent attack and the other because of doping allegations, the International Amateur Boxing Association said.
Light flyweight Suleiman Bilali Wanjau, a Nairobi police officer, quit the team after he was injured in a robbery near his home, the association said. Wanjau wound up sixth in his division at the Sydney Games four years ago.
Kenya's second boxer, bantamweight David Munyasia, was ejected from the games Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee after he tested positive for a banned stimulant.
The association said it had planned to fill one of the empty spots with a boxer from Namibia, but the Namibian Olympic Committee has said it would be impossible to get him to Athens in time for the official weigh-in Friday.
French runner pulls out hurt
Marc Raquil, a medal contender in the 400 meters for France, will miss the Athens Games with an injury.
Raquil injured his left calf and needs up to six weeks to recover, coach Francois Pepin said.
Raquil placed third in the 400 at last summer's World Championships. He was part of France's 1,600-meter relay team at the worlds that placed second to the United States.
Talk about bringing home the gold
Athletes often receive financial rewards for Olympic medal performances. The Ukrainians are getting an incentive they can take home -- literally.
The mayor of Kiev is promising an apartment to anyone from his country who places in Athens.
"We will give every winner the right to become a full resident of the Ukrainian capital," Kiev's Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
In June, the Ukrainian Cabinet decided to double the amount of prize money it offered to medal winners four years ago. The government is now offering $100,000 for each gold medal, $70,000 for a silver medal and $50,000 for a bronze, while coaches will receive half of those amounts.
Late Tuesday, Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, who also heads the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, said that his country "hopes to join the list of the 15 best countries by winning at least five gold medals."
All in the (Bukantz) family
U.S. fencing team captain Jeff Bukantz is participating in his third Olympics, and his family's 11th.
His father, Dr. Daniel Bukantz, competed at the 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1960 games in foil. He later refereed at the Olympics in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976, and was head referee at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Jeff Bukantz, of Livingston, N.J., refereed at the 1984 and 1996 Olympics before taking his current role as team captain in Athens.
The captain represents athletes in dealing with fencing officials, helps with organization and serves as the official liaison between the Americans and other fencing delegations.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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