Olympics 2000

Yueling Chen, a Chinese citizen until becoming a United States citizen just over four months ago, will be allowed to compete as an American in the 20K race-walking event. Originally, Chinese officials declined to allow her to switch. But Bill Hybl, president of the US Olympic Committee, kept pursuing the issue. Normally, an athlete has to be a citizen of a new nation for three years before being allowed to compete for it. Hybl praised the "sportsmanlike gesture" by the Chinese that allows Chen, a 1992 gold medalist in Barcelona, to "realize her dream" of racing for the US next month.

Of the 3.9 billion people in the world who have access to a TV, the International Olympic Committee says 3.7 billion will watch some of the Sydney Olympics. Least enthusiastic are those who live in developing nations - they plan to watch seven hours. Most enthusiastic are viewers in Finland and South Korea - they plan 45 hours each. Such viewership is why the IOC was able to sell television rights for the games for $1.3 billion - 49 percent more than just four years ago in Atlanta.

When the modern Olympics were started in 1896, there were 43 events, all contested only by men. Sydney will have 300 events, with 120 just for women and 12 mixed.

Blaine Wilson of Columbus, Ohio, is heading for Sydney with every reason to be confident. When he won the all-around competition at the recent national gymnastics championships, it was the fifth straight time he had won. Wilson's the first man to manage such a feat.

One of America's premier softball players, Lisa Fernandez, also is heading Down Under in up spirits. Tuning up for Sydney, she pitched three straight perfect games in competition in New York City, striking out 58 of 63 batters. She also bats about .500. During last month, Fernandez and her teammates outscored opponents 104-1. The US, which by midweek had won 100 straight games, is a gold medal favorite.

The Olympics are supposed to be fun, but they also are serious business. This was clear earlier this week at the US National Outdoor Diving Championships, when Justin Dumais of Ventura, Calif., won the 3-meter springboard competition. Afterward, he said: "I was out for blood today. I had a scowl on my face the whole time."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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