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Cycling chief worries about lack of fans on hill

Aug. 13, 2008, 12:53 p.m. (ET)

JUYONGGUANG, China (AP) Something's missing on the climb section of the Olympic cycling course: spectators.

"It's a little bit short of atmosphere on the hill. The riders must feel that as well," Pat McQuaid, head of the International Cycling Union, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Chinese authorities blocked spectators from much of the route for security reasons, but "they have gone a little bit over the top. It's a difficult area, but they should have thought of that," he said.

Still, McQuaid had praise for the course.

"This has to be one of the most interesting, one of the best courses in the world from cycling's point of view, to have a race that, with 200 meters to go, the cyclists are going under the Great Wall," he said.


ROYAL OLYMPIAN: Norway's King Harald V, a former Olympic and world champion sailor, and Queen Sonja arrived at the sailing venue in Qingdao on Wednesday on a private visit to watch racing.

The 71-year-old king, who is still an active regatta sailor, carried Norway's flag at the opening ceremony at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo when he was part of the national sailing team as crown prince.

King Harald was 1987 world champion in the one-tonner class, and was European IMS Champion with his 51-foot sailboat Fram XV in 2005.

In 1928, his late father, King Olav V, took a sailing gold medal in Amsterdam in the crewed Open Six Meter Class.


BADMINTON BLUES: American badminton player Howard Bach says his sport needs increased funding and a player like Tiger Woods to become more popular in the United States.

Bach and his partner Bob Malaythong lost in the quarterfinals of the men's doubles in Beijing on Wednesday, going down by a score of 21-9, 21-10 to the second-seeded Chinese pair of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng.

"We need more funding in badminton," said Bach. "We need more support at the grass-roots level."

By reaching the quarterfinals with a 21-10, 21-16 win over Chris and Roelof Dednam of South Africa on Tuesday, Malaythong and Bach advanced further than any American ever has in the Olympic badminton tournament.

"We need the money to travel internationally and compete with the best players in the world. We need a player like Tiger Woods or Roger Federer who could consistently win."

Bach, who was the 2005 world champion in men's doubles with Tony Gunawan, said this likely will be his last Olympics. He competed with Kevin Qi Han in the Athens Olympics four years ago but was eliminated in the second round.

Malaythong was born in Laos and moved to the United States in 1990. Bach's family immigrated to San Francisco from Vietnam in 1982.


BUBBA'S BOUNTY: Bring in the wheelbarrow to load up the Olympic medals the United States believes it will win in track and field.

"I want people to have heard our national anthem so much each day that they are humming it when they come out of the stadium," men's coach Bubba Thornton said on Wednesday.

Thornton, the coach at the University of Texas, said the U.S. track squad is "the dream team."

"The focus and energy has been pointed in a direction that's very positive. So what happens, happens. I'm thinking it's gonna be really good."

The U.S. men and women won 25 medals four years ago in Athens, eight of them gold. It was the biggest American Olympic haul in the sport since they won 30 at Barcelona games of 1992.

At last year's world track championships in Osaka, Japan, the United States won 26 medals, 14 of them gold. That included the first sweep of the four relays by a country in world championships history.

Olympic track competition begins Friday, and the first final, the men's shot put, should be a good one for the Americans. Throwers Adam Nelson, Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell have six of the top seven marks in the world this year.

The U.S. track squad in Beijing includes 15 Olympic medalists and 31 outdoor world championships medalists.


SWEET FORGIVENESS: The new head of USA Track & Field says he forgives disgraced American Marion Jones for her wrongdoing.

"We are taught by a higher power to forgive and I'm very willing to do that," Doug Logan told a group of reporters on Wednesday.

It was a far cry from the tone Logan used in "an open letter to George Bush" after Jones sought to have the president commute her sentence.

"With her cheating and lying, Marion Jones did everything she could to violate the principles of track and field and Olympic competition," Logan wrote. "When she came under scrutiny for doping, she taunted any who doubted her purity, talent and work ethic. Just as she had succeeded in duping us with her performances, she duped many people into giving her the benefit of the doubt."

Jones is serving a six-month sentence in federal prison for lying to investigators about her steroid use and for participating in a check-fraud scam. She has returned the five medals she won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, said he believes Jones should explain herself at the USATF convention later this year.

"She has to come to the convention and tell to the athletes committee what happened, why?" Diack said. "She has to explain. I think if she explains it will be more clear what happened."

Diack repeated his belief that Jones was so talented she did not have to cheat to succeed.

Logan said he'd like to here Jones, too.

"I was one of her biggest fans going back to her days when she was playing basketball at the University of North Carolina," he said. "She was a sensational athlete. I think that the urging for her to tell what happened, I think that would be good for the sport and probably good for her."