African City Could Play Host in 2004

DURING an Olympics Congress in New York this fall, the possibility of holding the 2004 Olympics in Africa surfaced. Four cities have expressed interest in hosting the games: Cairo and the South African trio of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the International Olympic Committee president who was widely perceived as supportive of Beijing's failed bid for the 2000 Games, said China might be willing to step aside to enhance an African bid. (The Games will be awarded in 1997.)

One appealing aspect of holding the games in Africa is that it would place them in the one world region where the Games have never been held. The five Olympic rings are symbolic of Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania (which includes Australia).

South Africa, an avid sports country, has also announced that it will become the first African country to pursue soccer's preeminent event, the World Cup. International soccer officials reportedly would like to place the tournament in Africa early in the next century. The United States will host the tournament in 1994 and France in 1998. Media members offer Olympic opinions

The opinions of 400 North American sportswriters and broadcasters may not be the ultimate barometer on matters Olympic, but their views are nonetheless interesting. Sixty percent would add women's ski jumping to the Winter Olympics, and 45 percent would include women's ice hockey, according to a recent survey. Roughly 40 percent would drop aerials and moguls freestyle skiing events, while some 30 percent would jettison the biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting. The incredible shrinking gymnasts

In sports, it is often assumed that world-class athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger with every passing year. In women's gymnastics - a misnomer if ever there was one - the conspicuously young top athletes are not only getting still younger, but also smaller.

New Scientist magazine says the average age of Olympic female gymnasts has dropped from 18 to 16 in the past 30 years. Over this same period, the average weight has plummeted from 110 pounds to less than 90 and the average height decreased by four inches, to roughly 4 feet, 10 inches. The magazine reports that top female gymnasts are encouraged to keep their body fat below a very low 10 percent, leading to distorted eating habits by some.

These findings may point to the need for competitive weight classes, as used in wrestling and boxing. Weight classes might usher older females into the sport and lead to a greater emphasis on grace and maturity, not just explosiveness and daring. Touching other bases

* Any Olympics with an official beer obviously is leaving no stone unturned in the revenue-generation department. In Atlanta, the search for money to stage the 1996 Games has led organizers to approve special license plates commemorating the centennial Olympics. The car plates carry a one-time $15 fee in addition to Georgia's standard $20 registration fee. The state keeps $5 and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games pockets the rest.

* When Sydney hosts the Olympics in the year 2000, the public may think of them as the summer Games. In fact, they will be held in what The World Book Encyclopedia says is spring in the southern hemisphere. The dates: Sept. 16-Oct. 1. The weather's always great in Sydney, so no matter. The timing is clearly an effort to accommodate tradition. That was not the case in 1956, when Melbourne hosted the only other Olympics held below the equator in late November and early December.

* The word out of New York is that if all goes well when the city hosts the 1998 Goodwill Games, serious efforts to land the Olympics - perhaps in 2008 or 2012 - may begin. Such long-range vision could be required to avoid a concentration of Olympics on American soil. Atlanta hosts the 1996 Centennial Games, and Salt Lake City is viewed as a strong contender for the 2002 Winter Games. History also shows that persistence sometimes wins the prize. Australia had a candidate city three straight times before Sydney earned the right to host the 2000 Olympics.

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