Olympic comings and goings as opening day nears
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Two days before 600 U.S. athletes march in the Sydney Games' opening ceremony, the American soccer team took a small step toward advancing in the 2000 Olympics.
In a physical battle with the Czech Republic, the Americans managed a 2-2 tie Wednesday night -- a game in which they twice led and suffered several missed scoring opportunities. Chris Albright and Josh Wolff scored for the United States.
The soccer players will not join the rest of the Americans at the Friday night (Thursday EDT) opening cermony in Sydney's Olympic Stadium. Instead, they will remain in Canberra to prepare for Saturday's game against Cameroon.
A half-dozen soccer games kicked off the Summer Games, with both men and woman taking the field for the first glimpse of the competition.
For the host Australian team, a screaming crowd of 93,252 in the Melbourne Cricket Ground could not help them overcome an Italian team that posted a 1-0 victory.
In other men's action, defending gold medalist Nigeria managed a 3-3 tie against Honduras, while Cameroon defeated Kuwait, 3-2.
WOMEN'S SOCCER: When the games began, it was the women's teams that kicked things off. Host Australia and three others nations started the competition at the Sydney Games.
It was an inauspicious debut for the Aussie women, who were thumped 3-0 by Germany. In the second game, Brazil was a 2-0 winner over Sweden.
A vocal 23,000-capacity crowd packed into Canberra's Bruce Stadium to see the first Australians in action. Not all of them saw the game's start, though, as heavy security caused long delays getting inside.
GOING, GOING, GONE: There was little rhyme to the reasons -- drugs, mental exhaustion, a pennant race -- but an assortment of athletes disappeared from the Summer Games.
U.S. baseball player C.C. Sabathia was yanked off the American squad Wednesday (Tuesday night EDT) by the Cleveland Indians after team officials discovered their prized prospect would be pitching in relief.
The Indians had agreed to let Sabathia pitch only if he started and was held to a pitch count. Sabathia, 20, was one of the few top major-league prospects on the American team.
Rather than pitching in Australia, Sabathia could start next week in Fenway Park when the Indians play back-to-back doubleheaders with the Boston Red Sox -- a key matchup in the American League wild-card race.
Swiss tennis star Marc Rosset pulled himself out of the Games, citing "extreme physical and mental exhaustion." Rosset, 29, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist, said his condition made it unlikely that he would medal in Sydney.
Gone as well, due to a failed drug test, was Taiwanese weightlifter Chen Po-pu. Chuang Tsun-che, chief of Taiwan's Olympic delegation, said he received formal notice from the International Weightlifting Federation that Chen had tested positive for "prohibited drugs" on Tuesday, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.
And swimmer Yevgeniya Yermakova of Kazakstan was dumped from the Olympics after testing positive for a drug masking agent. Yermakova tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic, at a meet in Monte Carlo in May.
ARRIVALS: Barry McCaffrey, head of the White House drug policy office, touched down in Australia and immediately praised China for dropping more than 20 athletes from its Olympic team over failed drug tests.
"It's a tremendous demonstration of their seriousness of purpose of acting against doping in their own teams," McCaffrey told The Associated Press shortly after his arrival. "It's a terrific signal that they are committed."
McCaffrey, part of the 10-member official U.S. delegation, delivered the same message in a letter to China's sports minister. The delegation also included first daughter Chelsea Clinton.
GYMNASTICS: After missing some practice time with injuries, a pair of U.S. gymnasts were back at work Wednesday (Tuesday night EDT). Stephen McCain and John Roethlisberger were expected to compete this weekend when the games get rolling.
McCain severely sprained his right ankle during training camp 10 days ago in San Diego. Roethlisberger strained his left calf at the Olympic trials last month, and it flared up again a few days ago.
"Stephen responded today with brilliance," U.S. coach Peter Kormann said. "He gets the badge-of-courage award."
INELIGIBLE: So close. So far.
Canadian diver Arturo Miranda, who missed out on a shot at the 1992 Games, was barred from participating in the Sydney Olympics by the International Olympic Committee. Cuban officials refused to grant a waiver to the Havana-born Miranda, who became a Canadian citizen in December 1999.
It was his second near-miss at the Olympics. In 1992, he was dropped by the Cuban squad for financial reasons just 15 days before the Barcelona Games.
LIGHT IT UP: Forget Dawn Frazer or Herb Elliot or even a hopping kangaroo. Australians want to see a cricket superstar light the Olympic flame.
A survey by Optecom telecommunications company found 52 percent of respondents backed Sir Donald Bradman, one of cricket's greatest batsman, to fire up the cauldron at Olympic Stadium during Friday night's opening ceremony.
Frazer, the swimming star of the 1956 Games in Melbourne, was second with 22 percent, followed by '56 track gold medalists Betty Cuthbert and Herb Elliott.
BIO BLOW UP: -- Olympic biographical sketches of two female Danish athletes were deemed too personal and have been censored to remove details about their private lives.
The Olympic News Service's sketch of badminton medal favorite Camilla Martin had referred to her racy cover photo for the Danish men's magazine M.
The sketch of handball player Camilla Andersen said she is married to Norwegian handball player Mia Hundvin, who also is competing in the Olympics. Andersen and Hundvin were married this summer under Denmark's law permitting homosexual unions.
"We noted the concern of the Danish National Olympic Committee and at their request we've removed the information," said Richard Palfreyman, Sydney organizing committee press chief.
The athlete biographies are available to all journalists covering the games.
FAR EAST FLAVOR: -- Garlicky kimchi guaranteed to keep competitors at bay! Curries spicy enough to satisfy fireproof palates!
Asian athletes at the Olympic Games probably have never had it so good when it comes to eating their native cuisines away from home. Be it Burmese curried egg noodles or Japanese soya yoghurt, about one-third of the dishes eaten by the world's sporting elite will be of Asian origin.
An influx of Asian immigrants in Australia since the 1970s has helped this country break its reputation for food once known as "English, only worse." That's enabled chefs at the Olympics to find the ingredients they need to provide Asian cuisine that's both authentic and tasty.
MILLER TIME: -- Stopped short of making her third Olympics, American gymnast Shannon Miller will be in Sydney anyway, as a personal guest of NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol.
Miller will appear as a guest on MSNBC and do pieces about what it's like to be an Olympian.
She should know.
Miller is the most decorated gymnast in U.S. Olympic history, with seven medals. She made a late comeback attempt for this year's games, but failed due to injuries before U.S. nationals and at Olympic trials.
TRACK CAPTAINS: -- Charles Austin, the 1996 Olympic high jump champion and the American record-holder, and 800-meter runner Joetta Clark, competing in her fourth and final Olympics, have been elected captains of the U.S. track and field team.
Austin, now in his third Olympics, tied for eighth at the 1992 games before winning the gold medal in 1996 with an Olympic record 7 feet, 10 inches jump.
Clark, 38, has said the Sydney Games will be the end of her career, which began in 1976. She has won seven U.S. indoor titles and five outdoor championships.
EVERYONE KNOWS IT'S WINDY: -- Athletes competing in at least six Olympic sports are concerned windy weather in Sydney could affect their performances.
Rowers, shooters, archers, runners, sailors and beach volleyballers all have complained about the blustery conditions in the city.
"The wind -- it's swirling, it's just crazy," said Brazilian beach volleyball star Sandra Pires.
Winds gusting up to 42 mph last week caused problems at Olympic venues, bringing down overhead wires and disrupting train services to Homebush Bay, where the main games site is located.