Politics in play for 2014 Games
BEIJING - During a party yesterday to celebrate the next two hosts of the Winter Olympics - Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi, Russia, after that - talk turned to this weekend's deadly violence in southern Russia, on the doorstep of the site of the 2014 Games.
The fighting between Russia and Georgia "has nothing to do with the preparation of the Games," Sochi Olympic organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said in his first public comments on the situation. "It's very sad what's going on in the world and we share the concern of the [International Olympic Committee], but I would refer to the politicians for that."
Airstrikes and shelling by Russia and Georgia has left hundreds dead in South Ossetia, a breakaway region in Georgia. The Russian resort of Sochi is a few hundred miles from the western border of Georgia.
"It's a bit of concern," said former skier Jean-Claude Killy, leader of an IOC commission on Sochi. "It is a national problem, and the IOC is not supposed to comment on situations like this. We just hope that it's going to be solved fast, and it seems they made progress today."
John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, told the IOC last week all but three venues in Vancouver will be completed by the end of this year. Sochi officials still have much work to do, needing to build 70 percent to 80 percent of its venues, according to Killy.
Thanou fires back
A day after she was banned by the IOC from competing in the Beijing Games, Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou called the decision "arbitrary and illegal."
"It is these totalitarian practices and decisions that bring the sporting spirit and the Olympic ideal that my country gave birth to into disrepute," Thanou said in a statement.
The IOC made its ruling Saturday night, saying Thanou's role in a drug-testing cover-up four years ago in Athens was "a scandalous saga" that had brought the Olympic movement into disrepute. Thanou and fellow Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris missed doping tests on the eve of the 2004 opening ceremonies, and claimed later they were injured in a motorcycle accident. Both eventually withdrew from the Games and were banned by the IAAF, the governing body for world track and field.
The IOC excluded Thanou following a recommendation of its disciplinary panel. In addition, the IOC executive board invoked a second rule which bars the Greek on what amounts to moral grounds.
One of Thanou's lawyers, Nikos Kollias, said the sprinter would not file an appeal. "We will not appeal her participation in the games. What matters now is Katerina's compensation," Kollias said.
Thanou, who said she intends to keep competing, faces criminal charges in Greece relating to the incidents four years ago.
Madrid pushes bid
Clean air, blue skies, and none of the public disruptions that have accompanied the Beijing Games. That's what Madrid's 2016 Summer Olympics bid is ready to promise.
Madrid's push to host the Olympics came to the Chinese capital, accompanied by videos pushing a candidature organizers say will be the greenest and greatest in history. With protests over Tibet and the thick Beijing haze stealing headlines at these Olympics, Madrid has always considered itself a harmonious choice for 2016.
"It's certainly not a reaction to Beijing," Spanish IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. said of Madrid's latest advertisement push. "The thrust of this campaign was set months ago and is continuing forward. There's no special plan to change that."
Madrid is up against Chicago, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Games.
Spanish cyclist barred
Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno was kicked out of the Olympics after testing positive for EPO, a blood-boosting hormone that enhances endurance. She is the first athlete to fail a drug test during the official Olympic doping control period. Moreno was tested in the Athletes Village July 31 and left China later the same day before the result was in, the IOC said. She had been scheduled to compete in the women's individual time trial . . . Australian swimming gold medalist Stephanie Rice has stamped her mark on these Olympics, and now she will make one on a stamp in her home country. Rice, 20, who won the women's 400 meter individual medley yesterday, will be the first Australian gold medalist from Beijing to appear on a postage stamp. Australia Post will release stamps for every Australian gold medalist from the 2008 Games. The country also made stamps for gold medalists during the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics . . . Security agents detained a Christian activist who was bicycling to a service at a state-sanctioned church attended by President Bush, confiscating his Bible and cellphone, the man's brother said. Hua Huiqi, a member of Beijing's underground Christian church who had been planning to attend the service for days, was being held at an undisclosed location, said his brother, Hua Huilin.