Paraguay looks to celebrate soccer success
ASUNCION, Paraguay -- Asuncion's city government will lift its restrictions on the sale of alcohol for one night when Paraguay face neighbors Argentina in the final of the Olympic soccer tournament on Saturday.
"This is a historic moment for our country," city councillor Martin Arevalo, who proposed the lifting of the law which forces bars and clubs to close at 2 a.m., told Reuters.
"We want people to be allowed to go out and celebrate, to go out and watch the match."
Paraguay, which qualified for the Olympics at the expense of Brazil, reached the final with a 3-1 win over Iraq on Tuesday.
The final, which will decide what color Paraguay's first Olympic medal will be, kicks off at 3 a.m. local time on Saturday morning.
Asuncion council introduced the law, which bans the sale of alcohol in January, mainly to cut down on road accidents caused by drunk drivers.
Critics say it is counter-productive as many people simply drive over the city limits to municipalities where alcohol is served all night.
"We hope that our citizens can enjoy themselves sensibly and in safety," said Arevalo.
Track and field stars Hicham El Guerrouj, Frankie Fredericks and Jan Zelezny were elected to the IOC's athletes commission by their fellow Olympians, it was announced Thursday.
The trio, plus former Egyptian swimmer Rania Elwani, were chosen from 30 candidates in an Olympic Village poll. They will serve as IOC members for the next eight years, taking to 19 the number of athetes on the commission, which provides a link between athletes and the IOC.
El Guerrouj, a native of Morocco and one of the best distance runners of all time, ended his long wait for a 1,500-meter gold medal with a victory Tuesday.
Fredericks, who hails from Namibia, is a four-time Olympic silver medalist, claiming second in both the 100 and 200 at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996. He is running Thursday in the 200 final.
Zelezny, a resident of the Czech Republic, has won three Olympic golds in the javelin and is going for a fourth beginning with Thursday's qualifications.
Elwani competed at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics before taking a number of high-profile political positions in domestic and international sports.
Four-time rowing gold medalist Matthew Pinsent of Britain saw his term on the commission come to an end.
Zelezny gave up his place in 2001 to focus on training and Pinsent took over on a temporary basis until this summer's elections. Pinsent applied for re-election but missed out as Zelezny returned to the fold.
Others who applied included Estonian decathlete Erki Nool and Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris, who withdrew from the Olympics in controversial fashion last week after missing a drug test the night before the opening ceremony.
Forget those measly stamp-sized pins that get swapped on the Olympic plaza. Anybody who wants a souvenir from Athens needs to think big.
Each piece of workout equipment from the Olympic housing units has been sold for use after the games. That includes treadmills, stair-climbers, weight machines and stationary exercise bikes, which will be removed from 11 athlete gyms and seven media villages.
Some folks apparently don't care that the machines have been run on, pumped, pushed and doused in the sweat by the world's greatest athletes and fittest journalists (both extremely small groups).
The collection is worth $1.5 million, and every piece has been claimed.
"The idea is to make them collector items, like how people collect pins,'' said Kate Carlisle of Technogym, the Italian company that is the exclusive supplier of the Olympic gyms. "They are high-end collector's items.''
In agreement with Athens organizers, Technogym slapped a sticker onto each machine, a sign of authenticity that they were used at the games.
"Of course, they will be completely refitted before they are redistributed,'' said Gianluca Lagana, who is responsible for Technogym's European market. "They've been sold in blocks to gyms.''
According to the Technogym staff at the Olympic village, there was an additional last-minute request that could not be met.
The president of Madagascar's Olympic Committee liked the step machine he was using so much that he wanted to put it on his personal plane and take it home. Technogym supplied him with a new model from the company's Greek supplier instead.
Mateus Inocencio was overjoyed, and not just because the Brazilian sprinter won his heat in the 110-meter hurdles.
Inocencio, who advanced to the semifinals in the event, is the first athlete from his country to have competed in the Summer and Winter Games.
"In Salt Lake City, I was in a bobsled team called 'Frozen Bananas,' '' he said. "My job was to run and push the sleigh.''
German weightlifter Ronny Weller made history at Athens by becoming the first in his sport to compete at five Olympics. But he missed on an attempt to become the first weightlifter to win five medals.
Weller, who won bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games at age 19, walked out of Wednesday's competition because of a shoulder injury. On his second lift, he dropped the barbell behind him and ran off the stage.
Trainers examined his shoulder, and he pulled out a short time later.
Weller began weightlifting at age 6, when East German sports officials projected him as a boxer or track and field athlete. His father, Guenther, rejected the suggestion and insisted his son lift weights.
Shortly after the Barcelona Games, he survived a car accident that killed his girlfriend and left him in a coma.
Once she's fitted out in her sneakers, uniform and warmup, U.S. basketball player Tina Thompson still isn't ready to go. Not until she puts on her lipstick.
Yep. Thompson wears lipstick for every game. It's a habit that goes back to her college days at Southern California.
"I accidentally left it on," she said. "When you're in college that first year, you kind of get lost in the moment. It was right before one our of exhibition games and I played really well and I had this lipstick on."
Sensing this could be lucky for her, Thompson has made the lipstick part of her pre-game routine ever since.
"It's become a part of my uniform. I just wear it all the time," she said. "I'm not superstitious. It's more of a ritual."
Hey, whatever works. Thompson was an All-American at USC and has been an all-star in the WNBA with the Houston Comets. She's the second-leading scorer on the Olympic team and put up 20 in her last game, a 102-72 victory over Greece.
Her color of choice: a shade of maroon.
"It's been the same forever," she said.
Why change now?
Australian Prime Minister John Howard paid tribute to hurdler Jana Pittman, who placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles after knee surgery only two weeks ago. He said it's extraordinary she returned to the track just 17 days after knee surgery.
Pittman, the world champion, was injured at Zurich on Aug. 6. She led the race in Athens early before tiring on the final straightaway. Pittman was timed in 53.92 seconds, trailing Greek winner Fani Halkia (52.82).
"I think all of Australia ... lamented with her but admired the extraordinary courage displayed," Howard told reporters in Sydney.
Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was included in this report.
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