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

"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

"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."

  • Police used Olympic soccer preliminaries, which began in four different cities Wednesday, as a test of their readiness ahead of the main event in Athens,
    officials said.

    "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

    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

    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

    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.