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,
"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.