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countdown to Olympics

Indians raring to go against all odds
Athens, August 12
India's top athletes will not only need the mental toughness to defy a depressing history but a spark of inspiration as they seek to boost the measly medal collection in the Olympic arena when the 28th edition of the games begin here tomorrow.

  Editorial: Athens 2004

Impressive show by women archers
Athens, August 12
Indian women put up a commendable show to be ranked fifth in the 15 team field in the ranking round of the archery competition here today. The good showing helped two Indians — Dola Banerjee and Sumangala Sharma a rather easy first round draw in the individual events.

Tough opening round for Indian tennis duo
Athens, August 12
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi received a huge boost to their Olympics medal hopes when they were drawn in a relatively easy bottom half in the tennis men’s doubles event today. The Indian Express open their campaign against the American pair of Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish.

The Netherlands's women's team trains at the Schinias Olympic Rowing Centre in Athens on Thursday

The Netherlands's women's team trains at the Schinias Olympic Rowing Centre in Athens on Thursday. The rowing competitions begin on Saturday. — Reuters



Britain's Lyon Taylor and Peter Waterfield train from the 10 metre platform the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Athens
Britain's Lyon Taylor and Peter Waterfield (left) train from the 10 metre platform the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Athens on Thursday.
— Reuters

EARLIER STORIES
 

India dangerous customer, says Terry Walsh
Athens, August 12
“India is a dangerous customer and we just can not afford to underestimate them (the Indians),” said Holland hockey coach Terry Walsh. India take on holder Holland, who won gold in the previous two editions, in their opening hockey match of the Olympic Games on August 15.

Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll adjusts her goggles during morning training at the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Athens on Thursday
Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll adjusts her goggles during morning training at the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Athens on Thursday.

Denmark badminton player Peter Gade eyes the shuttlecock during a training session in Athens on Thursday
Denmark badminton player Peter Gade eyes the shuttlecock during a training session in Athens on Thursday. — Reuters photo

Malleswari ‘geared up’ for challenge
Yamunanagar, August 12
While Karnam Malleswari was unpacking her bags at the Olympic Village in Athens, her three-year-old son, Sharad, was telling his neighbours and friends here that his mother would be back soon with a gold medal and a cricket bat and ball for him.

Star performers to watch from sidelines
Athens, August 12
Injury, doping bans, ill-timed losses of form, lack of interest and even a damaged fetlock have left a trail of big-name performers watching the Olympics from the sidelines. Athletics, the Games’s blue riband sport, leads the way in the absentees with its own blue riband event, the men’s 100 metres, the biggest loser.

Argentina serve warning with 6-0 win
Athens, August 12
Argentina fired off an ominous warning to their rivals in the Olympic football tournament here yesterday with a six-goal walloping of Serbia and Montenegro. The South Americans’ 6-0 drubbing of their European opponents in Group C was the highlight of the opening matches in the competition.

Doping clouds build-up
Athens, August 12
World 100 metres champion Torri Edwards was banned for two years and Spanish cyclist Janet Puiggros Miranda failed a drugs test as doping again clouded the build-up to the Athens Olympics. Three unnamed Russians also face exclusion from future competition for doping offences although they had not arrived in Athens to compete in the Games.

Athens Diary
Security main area of concern
Athens, August 12
Security continues to be a major area of concern for the organizers of the 2004 Olympic Games. Though they have an international security network of cooperation involving Australia, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Israel and the USA, yet there is a heightened alarm over the risk of a terrorist incident during the Games.

Li Ya of China performs on the balance beam Li Ya of China performs on the balance beam during a training session for the women's artistic gymnastic event in Athens on Thursday. — Reuters


Sangakkara’s double ton lifts Lanka
Colombo, August 12
Kumar Sangakkara’s third double century and two late wickets from Sanath Jayasuriya left Sri Lanka in control of the second Test against South Africa after the second day today.

Windies struggle
Manchester, August 12
West Indies were 38 for one following a shortened session at lunch on the first day of the third cricket Test at Old Trafford here today.

Australian speedster Brett Lee poses during the launch of 'New Balance Autumn-Winter Footwear' Laxman second best after Sachin: Lee
New Delhi, August 12
Australian paceman Brett Lee is fully fit from his shoulder injury, and is raring to get back into the competitive arena after a 17-month lay-off. Brett Lee said he was very keen to get into the Australian team for the India tour in the coming winter.

In video (28k, 56k)



Australian speedster Brett Lee poses during the launch of 'New Balance Autumn-Winter Footwear' in New Delhi on Thursday.
— PTI Photo

Zidane quits international football
Paris, August 12
France's inspirational playmaker and captain Zinedine Zidane today announced his retirement from the national team after an illustrious career in which he won 93 caps and a World Cup winner's medal. "I think that at a given moment you must say 'stop'," Zidane said in a statement on his website www.zidane.fr.

Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar speaks to mediapersons at a promotional event for a sports shoe company in Mumbai Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar speaks to mediapersons at a promotional event for a sports shoe company in Mumbai on Thursday.
— Reuters

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Indians raring to go against all odds
M R Mishra

Athens, August 12
India's top athletes will not only need the mental toughness to defy a depressing history but a spark of inspiration as they seek to boost the measly medal collection in the Olympic arena when the 28th edition of the games begin here tomorrow.

The Indians have managed just 14 medals, including eight golds brought by the hockey team, in the 104-year history of modern Olympics and it appears extremely unlikely that they would be able to make much of a ripple in the world's biggest sporting extravaganza which returns to its place of birth.

There have been some notable performers but their heroics have largely been overshadowed by the repeated failures, raising doubts about India's ability to make a mark at the highest level.

The last time India won a gold medal was in the Moscow Olympics in 1980 thanks to the hockey team but more than two decades have passed with no signs of any addition to the gold medal tally.

India has fielded a 75-member contingent for the games this time around but any hopes of a medal would largely depend on ace long jumper Anju Bobby George and the tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The hockey team and the shooters have an outside chance of a medal but it remains to be seen whether they actually make it to the podium.

In the next two weeks, over 12,000 athletes from 202 nations will battle for glory in 37 disciplines with the USA, Russia and China expected to maintain their supremacy in the first Olympics of the millennium.

With only the opening ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, the competitive action will unfold on Saturday with the Indians launching their campaign in badminton, rowing, shooting, weightlifting, table tennis and tennis in the next couple of days.

The Athens-bound athletes had an extensive build-up to the games with a number of exposure trips abroad but it remains to be seen whether the months of training could translate into a medal.

Star shooter Anjali Bhagwat, who has some creditable performances last year, will be on view on Saturday in the women's 10 m air rifle event alongwith Suma Shirur in a competition which was expected to be dominated by traditional powerhouses South Korea and China.

Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Mansher Singh will also test their shooting skills with the men's trap qualifications scheduled on the opening day of competitions.

The three Indians shuttlers — Aparna Popat, Abhinn Shyam Gupta and Nikhil Kanetkar — get into the act at the Galatsi Olympic Hall and would be more than satisfied if they can put it across their first round opponents in an event where India has absolutely no chance of a medal.

As per the draw, world No 27 Popat will take on African champion and 64th ranked Michelle Edwards of South Africa in the first round of the women's singles event. Kanetkar will play top Spanish shuttler Sergio Llopis while Gupta will have to face world No 16 Tae Sang Park of Korea in the opening round of the men's singles.

The 36-year-old Kunjarani Devi, who is the oldest competitor in the weightlifting arena, will attempt to add a medal to India's paltry Olympic collection at the Nikaia Hall with competitions in the women's 48 kg category scheduled on the opening day.

Kunjarani, currently ranked 10th in the world, is said to be the main medal prospect for the country despite the four-member team including Sydney bronze medal-winner Karnam Malleswari, who will take part in the 63 kg category this time.

The two Indian paddlers — Mouma Das and Sharath Kamal — will also begin their campaign on Saturday with their priorities being to overcome the first hurdle.

The showpiece athletic events are scheduled to begin from August 18 and ace long jumper Anju Bobby George will be the cynosure of all Indian eyes.

With a bronze medal in the World Athletic Championship in Paris last year, the 27-year-old Anju will be India's main medal hope in the games, having made her presence felt in the world arena.

Anju, who will be the flag bearer of the Indian contingent, is currently ranked fourth in the world and is

hoping to peak at the right time — her event scheduled just a couple of days before the closing ceremony.

In the tune-up to the Athens games, Anju has cleared over 6.80m twice, 6.82 and 6.83m to be precise at Doha, Qatar and at Eugene, Oregon, but both the efforts were wind-assisted.

With a best effort of 6.66 m this year without the help of wind, the national record holder (6.74 m) has relied on an extensive training abroad to fulfill a long cherished dream of winning an Olympic medal. — PTI
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Impressive show by women archers

Athens, August 12
Indian women put up a commendable show to be ranked fifth in the 15 team field in the ranking round of the archery competition here today.

The good showing helped two Indians — Dola Banerjee and Sumangala Sharma a rather easy first round draw in the individual events.

Korean women team took the top ranking with a world record score of 2030, followed by China (1977), Chinese Taipei (1924), Poland (1913) and India (1900).

Dola was the top scorer for India with 642 points, Sumangala collected 638 points while Reena Kumari added 620 points to the team’s kitty.

Dola shot 329 in the first half and was placed seventh and she hit 313th in the second half and slipped to 28th spot but overall she finished 13th in the ranking in 64 archers field.

Dola shot 38 ten pointers while her teammate Sumangal Sharma fired identical 319 in two halves and was placed 20th. She had 18 ten pointers.

Third Indian in the fray Reena Kumari totalled 311 in the first half and shot 309 in the second. She had nine ten pointers to her credit and was placed 43rd.

In the individual events starting on August 14, Dola is pitted against South Africa’s Kristin Jean Lewis, who is ranked 52 as she totalled 606 in the round. — UNI
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Tough opening round for Indian tennis duo

Athens, August 12
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi received a huge boost to their Olympics medal hopes when they were drawn in a relatively easy bottom half in the tennis men’s doubles event today.

The Indian Express, who have been seeded fifth, open their campaign against the American pair of Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish and can expect another high profile showdown in the second round against Swiss star Roger Federer and Yves Allegro.

Should seedings hold, the Indians’ first tough test would come in the quarterfinals where they are likely to run into fourth-seeded Zimbabwean duo Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett on the way to a potential semifinal clash against second seeds Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge of Australia.

The top half of the 32-size draw features the top seeds America’s Bryan brothers — Bob and Mike, Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra of France (3), Argentines Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriguez (6), Martin Damm and Cyril Suk of the Czech Republic (7).

The tennis competition, to be played from August 15 to 22, will be held at the Olympic Tennis Centre that is part of the main complex and situated nine kilometres north of the Olympic Stadium.

The women’s singles and men’s doubles finals are slated for August 21; and the men’s singles and women’s doubles finals on August 22. — PTI
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India dangerous customer, says Terry Walsh


Olympic Hockey Schedule



Athens, August 12
“India is a dangerous customer and we just can not afford to underestimate them (the Indians),” said Holland hockey coach Terry Walsh.

India take on holder Holland, who won gold in the previous two editions, in their opening hockey match of the Olympic Games on August 15.

The Dutch have beaten India recently in the four-nation Rabobank tournament but that was a victory they don’t like to remember for long because India gave them a good run for their money in the game.

“The Indians are a well-knit side and they are always dangerous” said Walsh and warned other teams, including his side, not to underestimate India saying: “They are capable of hitting back.”

Meanwhile, Holland are here on a mission to capture their third successive hockey gold, a feat which has been performed only by India so far.

The defending champions have not only to face India but also to surmount the Australian challenge in their pool before they think of qualifying for the knock-out stage.

Walsh said the Indians were developing as a well-knit team and seemed to be improving with every outing.

“They(India) are the team to watch”, he said.

Holland will be depending on their stars like FIH player of the year Teun de Noojer and Taeke Taekema to steer them to the final and hope that recent changes in the rules of penalty corner help them.

As per the new rule, defenders are no longer permitted to run directly into the line of a flicked penalty corner shot. This will have the effect of opening up the area in front of the goal during penalty corners which can make Taekema and Nooijer more lethal.

Declining to divulge his strategy for the tournament, Walsh said: “We will take up one match at a time. Our first priority is to get past India.”

“The Indians have shown remarkable progress and if we get three points from them, that would be a great start” he added.

Holland have five players who will be playing their third successive Olympics and they will be gunning for their third Olympic gold.

Meanwhile, talking about the defending champions, Indian coach Jagbir Singh said: “We are aware of Holland’s threat and ready for them.”

He said all the players were fit and focused.

“We are now working on various plans and strategies,” he informed.

“What gives me confidence is the attitude of the players. They are all very positive and ready for the big occasion,” Jagbir added.

India’s chief coach Gerhard Rach said he was satisfied the way team was developing.

“I am with the team for a short time but I am happy with the boys. They have a very positive attitude and are willing to take on any rival. That is a very healthy development.”

The Indians are not playing any friendly match but are concentrating on workouts. They had two hours of workout on the main pitch under lights.

Most of the matches involving India are to be played under lights and “these workouts have given the players the feel of the condition in which they have to play,” said Rach.

The good news for India is that drag flicker Sandeep Singh, who had injured his left hand during training in Germany, is recovering fast and practiced with the team.

Asked why India had not played any friendly like other teams here, manager Hardip Dhillon said: “Well we have been playing matches for the last one and half months in tournaments, Test series and friendlies in Germany. Now we have decided to train on different areas and focus on workouts.”

“The boys have responded to these strenuous workouts well and their fitness level has also improved tremendously,” he added. — UNI
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Rs 1 cr for hockey gold announced
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 12
Come Olympics and the incentives for the Indian hockey team have started flowing in. The first to announce a major incentive for the hockey team if they win the gold at the Athens Olympics is the Zee News channel. A release issued by the company today said that it would award Rs 1 crore to the Indian hockey team if they are able to win the gold medal.

ZEE ropes in Jasdev, Pargat for Olympics

New Delhi, August 12
After being ignored by the public sector broadcaster, distinguished commentator, whose voice had over the years become synonymous with hockey commentary, Jasdev Singh and former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh would now form part of the expert’s panel on the ZEE News network.

With Olympics getting underway at Athens the two would be on the Zee network with their expert comments not only on hockey but on other sports also. However, Pargat would be concentrating only on hockey, which incidentally remains the biggest interest for India at the Olympics. Jasdev Singh has covered nine Olympics so far. — TNS
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Malleswari ‘geared up’ for challenge
Nishikant Dwivedi

Yamunanagar, August 12
While Karnam Malleswari was unpacking her bags at the Olympic Village in Athens, her three-year-old son, Sharad, was telling his neighbours and friends here that his mother would be back soon with a gold medal and a cricket bat and ball for him.

On August 9, Sharad had gone to New Delhi along with his father to see her off to Athens. Malleswari lives in Professor Colony here.

Malleswari's husband, Rajesh Tyagi, and his family are confident that she would better her Sydney bronze medal finish.

“Despite a back injury during the Bangalore camp, she is fully prepared for the event and by the grace of God she would once again bring glory to the country”, said Tyagi. When asked if her medal prospects has increased with China not fielding any lifter, Tyagi said, “She became the world champion in 1995 beating a Chinese in China. My wife is ready to take on anyone”.

When Malleswari is away from home, she calls up her son and husband, but she is yet to make one from Athens. “She probably does not have a telephone calling card but I am sure she would be calling by late evenings”, said Tyagi.

After Sharad's birth, Malleswari could not give him much time as she had to prepare for various events. “We are there to take care of Sharad. Malleswari has to just prepare for her events”, said Jagwati Tyagi, Malleswari's mother-in-law adding that “She keeps calling up Sharad and if she is near Yamunanagar, like in Patiala, my son takes Sharad to her.” Jagwati does not mind that Malleswari does not get time to do housework. “We are proud of her and whenever she is home, she takes care of the house”, said Hariraj Singh Tyagi, Malleswari’s father-in-law.

The family could not watch history being made during the Sydney Olympics, as the event was not telecast Live on TV. “We kept waiting for the result and it was during a hockey match that we got the news”, recalls Hariraj Singh Tyagi, adding that “We are sure that this time we would be able to watch the event Live on August 18.”

When asked how they planed to celebrate if Malleswari won a medal, the father-in-law said “It would be celebrations and celebrations.”

“She has made us famous. You do not need to know our address to reach us. Just ask for Malleswari's house and you would be with us.”
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Star performers to watch from sidelines

Athens, August 12
Injury, doping bans, ill-timed losses of form, lack of interest and even a damaged fetlock have left a trail of big-name performers watching the Olympics from the sidelines.

Athletics, the Games’s blue riband sport, leads the way in the absentees with its own blue riband event, the men’s 100 metres, the biggest loser.

World record holder Tim Montgomery failed to make the U.S. team after finishing seventh in the country’s trials in July.

The U.S. system of selecting the first three in its trials has often forced some of the sport’s greatest names to miss out but on this occasion there can be few complaints as Olympic champion Maurice Greene won the trial and will be accompanied in Athens by Justin Gatlin and Shawn Crawford.

Montgomery’s loss of form coincided with a long-running doping case which could lead to lifetime ban and has cast a cloud over a whole group of elite US athletes.

Also absent from the sprint is Britain’s former European champion Dwain Chambers, who has been banned for doping. The women’s 100 metres has been similarly tarnished, with American world champion Kelli White banned and runner-up Torri Edwards, who inherited the world title, set to follow her compatriot after testing positive for a stimulant.

The likely absence of Edwards could open the door for Marion Jones to defend her 100 metres title. American Jones initially failed to qualify but is travelling to Athens to compete in the long jump and sprint relay.

In the men’s 400 metres, world champion Jerome Young failed to qualify and 2000 Olympic silver medallist Alvin Harrison was thrown off the relay squad after a positive test.

In the field events the women’s pole vault is unlikely to match the viewing figures of four years ago due to the absence of glamorous Australian Tatiana Grigorieva, whose form has been way off that which earned her a silver medal and an army of admirers in Sydney.

The Olympics remains the ultimate event for athletics but it is not the case for several other sports, leading to a situation where many big names simply opt not to take part.

Lance Armstrong, an Olympian in 1992, 1996 and 2000, has this year instead chosen to spend time with his family after winning an unprecedented sixth successive Tour de France.

Most of the other top professional riders are here although Britain’s world time trial champion David Millar was withdrawn after failing a dope test.

Sydney doubles gold medallist Serena Williams was a late withdrawal from the tennis this week, following compatriot and 1992 singles gold medallist Jennifer Capriati, who dropped out with an injury on Tuesday.

Baseball will certainly look strange without an American team taking part — the 2000 champions failed to qualify — while the days of the ‘’Dream Team’’ are long gone in basketball and few of the current stars of the NBA have showed any interest in travelling to Europe for the Olympic experience.

Soccer has a special position in the Games, the men’s event being for under-23s with three over-age players allowed, but none of the world’s top players will be interrupting their club seasons to take part.

In women’s soccer, however, the Olympics remains all-important and the qualification failure of Norway, reigning champions and one of the dominant forces in the game for 20 years, is a real shock.

But surely the most frustrated absentee must be Germany’s number one world-ranked showjumper Marcus Ehning, who was forced to withdraw this week because his horse — Sydney and Atlanta team gold medallist For Pleasure — strained a ligament. — Reuters
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Argentina serve warning with 6-0 win

Athens, August 12
Argentina fired off an ominous warning to their rivals in the Olympic football tournament here yesterday with a six-goal walloping of Serbia and Montenegro.

The South Americans’ 6-0 drubbing of their European opponents in Group C was the highlight of the opening matches in the competition, which got underway two days ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony.

In other matches, host nation Greece were made to sweat before fighting back from two goals down to force a 2-2 draw with Group A rivals South Korea while Australia were held 1-1 with Tunisia in Group C.

The remaining match saw Mali and Mexico play out a 0-0 draw in Group A. On Wednesday’s evidence Argentina — bidding to make up for their heartbreak in the 1996 Olympic final when they lost to Nigeria — should be the team to beat in Greece.

Argentina’s experienced captain and central defender Roberto Ayala said his team had wanted to get a solid start to their campaign.

The Argentineans have never won the Olympic crown but produced the sort of display that has prompted many observers to install coach Marcelo Bielsa’s men as favourites. — AFP
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Doping clouds build-up

Athens, August 12
World 100 metres champion Torri Edwards was banned for two years and Spanish cyclist Janet Puiggros Miranda failed a drugs test as doping again clouded the build-up to the Athens Olympics.

Three unnamed Russians also face exclusion from future competition for doping offences although they had not arrived in Athens to compete in the Games, according to national officials.

Edwards, who inherited the world title when her fellow American Kelli White was also suspended for two years after admitting taking a cocktail of drugs, responded with an immediate appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Spanish mountain bike rider Puiggros Miranda was dropped from the national Olympic team after testing positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) said.

At least six other athletes have failed drugs tests in the past few days, including Kenyan boxer David Munyasia who became the first competitor in Athens to return a positive sample for a banned substance.

The federation said that Puiggros Miranda has given the test at the Spanish mountain bike championship in Candanchu on July 17.

“After notifying the affected party, who waived the right to a ‘B’ test, the federation informed the Spanish Olympic Committee that the rider would no longer be participating at Athens,’’ read a federation statement.

Russian Olympic Committee vice-president Vladimir Loginov said three sportsmen had returned positive A samples during pre-Olympic testing in Russia. They had not joined the team in Athens and they would be publicly named and banned from future competition if the B samples confirmed the findings.

There was better news for Greek boxer Elias Pavlidis who was cleared to compete in his home Games after an apparent positive test proved to be the result of a mix-up in paperwork.

Edwards had been selected to run the 100 and 200 metres for the US team and would probably have run in the 4x100 relay. — Reuters
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Athens Diary
Security main area of concern
Prabhjot Singh

Athens, August 12
Security continues to be a major area of concern for the organizers of the 2004 Olympic Games. Though they have an international security network of cooperation involving Australia, U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Israel and the USA with the “finest counter-terrorism know-how” in place, yet there is a heightened alarm over the risk of a terrorist incident during the Games.

Spurt in terrorist attacks in Iraq and taking hostages of seven drivers of Kuwait Gulf Links are being viewed seriously here. Proximity of Greece to Middle East has heightened the threat perception.

No country in the world has paid as much for security as Greece. The security bill started at 300 million Euros and has risen to approximately 1.2 billion Euros. Go anywhere and you have gun trotting cops on deployment. The police have improvised vehicles which have all the facilities for a kitchenette, dining table and other basic amenities. These vehicles remain mobile and move place to place.

Yesterday, when the organizers had a test or route appraisal run for road race cyclists, four helicopters were hovering over the downtown, the venue of the event. Unlike Atlanta and Sydney, the cops, security personnel and even volunteers do not carry the whacky beepers which can read computer-generated code bars to decipher authenticity of accreditation documents, passes and entry cards.

Security at the train, bus stations, market places and other public places is understandable. In fact, if one does not find many foreigners here, it is the threat of terrorist strike that is keeping the Olympic revelers away.

Providing security to the visiting dignitaries would be another area of concern for the organizers. Yesterday when the Indian Hockey Federation chief, Mr KPS Gill, arrived, he was immediately provided a security cover designed for those who are known security risks.

The City of Athens has 475 new recruits in its police force raising its strength to 623.

Though the Olympics owe their origin to Greece, yet it becomes the smallest country ever to host the modern Games, which have been growing in magnitude with every edition. Athens, the smallest of all modern Olympic cities, has the support of the whole of Greek as a national issue.

Greece is financially the weakest country ever to have hosted the modern Olympics in their current massive scale. Like Sydney, the organizers have avoided the over commercialization of the Games. Staging the biggest event of the new millennium on a human scale and to identify them as much as possible with their original values, dating back to the first Ancient Olympics in 776BC and the revived modern Games in 1896, has made the task little difficult for them. But still sponsorship has been more than the expenditure and the infrastructure so created will benefit the city for many years to come.

Some problems remain. These include traffic congestion, lack of adequate parking and too few parks and woodlands or open spaces. And then Athens has the problem of stray animals in general and dogs in particular.

Go anywhere huge canines are there to greet you. Most of them have been tagged, spayed or neutered, inoculated and cleaned of parasites.
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Sangakkara’s double ton lifts Lanka

Colombo, August 12
Kumar Sangakkara’s third double century and two late wickets from Sanath Jayasuriya left Sri Lanka in control of the second Test against South Africa after the second day today.

Sangakkara, who started the day on 157 having come to the crease in the first over of the match, scored 232 from 357 balls, hitting 31 fours and one six during an innings that spanned nearly nine hours.

SCOREBOARD

Sri Lanka (Ist innings):

Atapattu c Boucher b Pollock 4

Jayasuriya lbw b Boje 43

Sangakkara c Kallis b Pollock 232

Jayawardene b Ntini 82

Vaas c Van Jaarsveld b Pollock 10

Samaraweera c Ntini b Kallis 21

Dilshan c Kallis b Pollock 3

Kaluwitharana c Boucher b Hayward 7

Chandana st Boucher c Boje 40

Herath b Ntini 7

Malinga not out 6

Extras: (lb-6 nb-8 w-1) 15

Total: (all out) 470

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-99, 3-291, 4-316, 5-392, 6-399, 7-416, 8-418, 9-437.

Bowling: Pollock 30-8-81-4, Ntini 33-6-108-2, Hayward 17-4-75-1, Kallis 17-6-54-1, Boje 34.3-5-102-2, Rudolph 4-0-16-0, Van Jaarsveld 7-0-28-0.

South Africa (Ist innings):

Smith not out 49

Gibbs lbw Vaas 0

Van Jaarsveld c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 51

Boje b Jayasuriya 0

Kallis not out 4

Extras: (lb-8 nb-4) 12

Total: (3 wkts, 37 overs) 116

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-109, 3-109

Bowling: Vaas 7-3-10-1, Malinga 8-1-33-0, Herath 11-1-39-0, Chandana 6-0-21-0, Dilshan 2-0-3-0, Jayasuriya 3-2-2-2. — Reuters
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Windies struggle

Manchester, August 12
West Indies were 38 for one following a shortened session at lunch on the first day of the third cricket Test at Old Trafford here today.

Test debutant Sylvester Joseph was 18 not out and Ramnaresh Sarwan 15 not out after West Indies captain Brian Lara won the toss and elected to bat in a match where rain had delayed the scheduled start by an hour.

Scoreboard

West Indies (1st Innings):

Gayle c Strauss b Hoggard 5

Joseph batting 18

Sarwan batting 15

Total: (1 wkt, 14 overs) 38

Fall of wicket: 1-8

Bowling: Hoggard 6-2-19-1; Harmison 7-2-18-0; Flintoff 1-0-1-0. — AFP
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Laxman second best after Sachin: Lee
Our Sports Reporter

New Delhi, August 12
Australian paceman Brett Lee is fully fit from his shoulder injury, and is raring to get back into the competitive arena after a 17-month lay-off. Brett Lee said he was very keen to get into the Australian team for the India tour in the coming winter. But before that, he would have to perform well in the one-day series in Holland and then in the Champions Trophy in England in September. “I am 100 per cent fit, and free from injuries”, Lee declared.

The speed bowler is now fully focussed on the Champions Trophy as a win in this prestigious tournament, touted as a mini World Cup, would give a boost to the image of the Australian team. “It would be good if we come to India after a win in the Champions Trophy”, Lee opined.

“I have to do well in the one-day series to get into the Test team, and right now, the focus is on the Champions Trophy”, Lee said here today. He came to Delhi after attending a short tuning up session under Javagal Srinath at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai and noted that Srinath was impressed with his return to form after recovering from the ankle injury.

Lee, who was here as the brand ambassador of New Balance footwear and apparels, said the Australian team were eagerly looking forward to their tour of India for a four-Test series. He admitted that Venkat Sai Laxman was the scourge of the Australian bowlers when India toured Australia. “If we get Laxman out, it’s like a miracle”, Lee said. He said Laxman had given a lot of trouble to the Australian bowlers in Down Under last year.

“He’s the key player. In India, he is the second best after Sachin”. Lee said, adding that India had a lot of depth in batting with the likes of Sachin, Laxman, Dravid, Saurav Ganguly Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh forming the squad.

The Australian pacer said he would be putting more thrust on disciplined bowling, concentrating on line and length, instead of firing at full blast.

“There is no point bowling at 160 kmph speed and ending up with figures of two for 300 in Test matches”, Lee reasoned. The fiery bowler has so far captured 139 wickets in 37 Tests and 151 wickets in 84 one-day Internationals.
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Zidane quits international football

Zinedine ZidaneParis, August 12
France's inspirational playmaker and captain Zinedine Zidane today announced his retirement from the national team after an illustrious career in which he won 93 caps and a World Cup winner's medal.

"I think that at a given moment you must say 'stop'," Zidane said in a statement on his website www.zidane.fr.

"I have thought long and hard over this decision," he said. "It's the end of my international career with the French team.

"It's the time, it's my time. It's the end of a cycle: there have been some great players who retired in 2000 and 2002, other players are doing it and now I'm doing it. It's like that. You have to stop one day," said the Real Madrid player.

Zidane said the decision was not taken in light of France's disappointing display in the Euro 2004 competition. — AFP
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OLYMPIC  BRIEFS

No all-China TT final
ATHENS:
The chance of a third successive all-China Olympic final in the table tennis doubles has been eliminated. It was said that spectators tend to lose interest in such finals and there were also reports that it was the Chinese team management which used to decide which pair should win the gold in the final. The possibility of third such final prompted International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) to formulate new rules which will now force the Asian super power to field their strongest possible pair and not to take things lightly. The ITTF new rule for the doubles competition prevents two pairs from the same country playing the final, thus ruling out a repeat of the all-Chinese finals at the last two Olympic Games. If there are two teams from the same country, both will be clubbed in the same side of the draw. — UNI

Drunk coach
RIGA:
The Olympic dreams of Latvia’s top track and field coach Gints Bititis ended before he reached Athens when he was thrown off a plane for being drunk and stripped of his accreditation to the Games. Bititis was barred from boarding a connecting flight to Athens by airport security in Prague on Tuesday, then disappeared only to resurface a day later without any explanation about his whereabouts, officials said. ‘’Mr Bititis was too intoxicated to board the plane,’’ — a spokesman for the Latvian Olympic Committee said on Thursday, adding that his Athens accreditation had been withdrawn. The small Baltic ex-Soviet republic and European Union newcomer is sending 34 athletes to Athens, with Aigars Fadejevs — who won silver in the 50-km race walk in the 2000 Sydney Olympics — their biggest medal hope. — Reuters

US flag bearer
Athens:
Two-time women’s Olympic basketball and world championship gold medalist Dawn Staley was on Thursday officially unveiled by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as America’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Athens Games on Friday. Staley was a member of the US women’s basketball team that won gold in 1996 in Atlanta and Sydney 2000. The 34-year-old won her two world championship titles in 1998 and 2002. — DPA

Bhutan archers
Athens:
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is represented by two archers at the 28th Olympic Games here. Bhutan has been sending its archery team to the Olympics since 1984 and the archers have performed quite well, given their constraints and limitations. This time the archers representing Bhutan are Tashi Peljor and Tshering Chhoden. For Tshering, this is her second successive Olympics having figured in the Sydney Games where she had finished 43rd in the individual event. — UNI
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