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Heat wilted Olympic basketball team

Aug. 09, 2008, 3:13 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The U.S. Olympic basketball team didn't have to wait for its first game to break a sweat.

The Americans joked Saturday before practice about how hot they felt during the opening ceremony, when they were sharply dressed in jacket and tie on a night when temperatures called for shorts and sandals.

Kobe Bryant might have wished for a trade as he watched Argentina's team, led by fellow NBA star Manu Ginobili, who carried their flag.

"We had all those layers. I seen Manu and they got like a short sleeve shirt," Bryant said. "But it was great though."

The American men donned navy jackets, with white shirts, white slacks, white brims and red, white and blue ties. Problem was, it wasn't only hot outside. The players arrived around 6 p.m. and found little air conditioning in the area of the indoor arena where they waited.

"Down low it was a lot cooler, but it goes by what countries go out first, so it kind of evens the playing field," Bryant said. "Like Greece, they had air conditioning, but they were sitting there for like 10 minutes. Then they went outside and they were roasting for like hours."

Once the U.S. team did make its way into the stadium, Bryant got a huge ovation, with fans chanting his name.

And at the next Olympics, teammate Dwyane Wade has a request.

"Hopefully don't wear suits. It was hot. Please don't make the U.S. Olympic team wear suits in 2012," he said. "Because I lost five pounds last night just by sweating, I'll tell you that."


COACH FANS: The U.S. women's indoor volleyball team was greeted by enthusiastic Chinese fans who weren't all that interested in the team. They were there for the coach.

Jenny Lang Ping, a sports celebrity in China and U.S. coach since 2005, was introduced to a burst of cheers at the Capital Indoor Stadium before the Americans played Japan on the first day of competition. Many waved Chinese flags.

Known as the Iron Hammer for her powerful spikes, Lang led the Chinese women's team to Olympic gold in 1984 - becoming a national symbol of pride. She was even featured on a postage stamp.

When she arrived for the game, television crews waiting for the team bus scrambled to get shots of her quick walk to the entrance of the venue. The U.S. went on to defeat Japan 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21).

Lang was an outside hitter for the Chinese national team from 1978-85 and then again in 1990. Credited with the ascent of the Chinese women's program, she helped the team to its first title in 1981 at the World Cup.

In 1995 she became the first woman to coach a Chinese national team, leading the women to a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 1998 World Championship. She left the team in 1999.

Lang is the only woman coach among the teams that will play in Beijing. She joins former Hungary coach Gabriella Kotsis as the only women to coach teams at multiple Olympics.

The U.S. women are ranked fourth in the world, behind Brazil, Italy and Cuba in the close women's field. Lang and her team will meet China on Aug. 15, with Lang's former assistant Zhonghe Chen coaching the Chinese.


BUSH ON CHINA: Former President George H.W. Bush called the bilateral relationship with China the "most important" one for the United States.

Speaking Saturday at a dinner hosted by the China-United States Exchange Foundation, Bush said Chinese President Hu Jintao assured him earlier this week that the relationship between China and the U.S. is "the best it's ever been." Bush said that made him a "proud father."

Bush's remarks followed verbal sparring between his son, President Bush, and Hu over China's human rights record.

Former President Bush, once U.S. ambassador to China, was hailed at the dinner as having made a "massive" contribution to U.S.-China relations.

Those attending the dinner, held at the recently restored Jianfu Palace Garden in the Forbidden City, included composer-producer Quincy Jones, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, National Public Radio's Juan Williams and Hank Greenberg, former chairman and CEO of American International Group.

Bush, honorary captain of the U.S. Olympic team, left the dinner early to attend a ceremony for the team's first medal winners of the Beijing Games.


DOPING: Two more athletes Saturday joined the roster of those banned from the Beijing Games because of doping accusations. Greek sprinter Tassos Gousis was excluded from the Olympics a few days before the games after he failed a doping test in his home country. Russian steeplechase runner Roman Usov has been pulled out amid reports he failed a drug test conducted at the selection trials last month. That makes 49 athletes so far pulled from the games after failing drug tests.