Olympics notebook 2000

It doesn't look like a splendid endorsement of the Olympic movement when two of the biggest US basketball stars - Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers - decline the invitation to be on the team because they'd rather do something else.

Pay this no attention, says an Olympic team member, Allan Houston of the N.Y. Knicks, who insists attitude can't be "based on those two people. We recognize the opportunity and are going to cherish it. You're an Olympian forever."

Clearly in the spirit is Antonio McDyess, who showed up 30 minutes early for the team bus that would take everyone to practice in Hawaii. An NBA player who can't wait for practice - practice - is a very good sign.

The Olympics are such a big deal that they start before they start. At 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, MSNBC will air the first televised event at the Sydney Games: the US men's soccer team's opening game, against the Czech Republic.

The opening ceremony begins two days later.

In a fast-moving world, it's difficult to enjoy the moment - in this case, the many moments to come in the 2000 Games - because wheels are turning to accommodate the future.

Much attention is being given these days to which city will be awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics. Earlier this week, a preliminary group of 10 cities was narrowed to five: Beijing; Paris; Toronto; Istanbul, Turkey; and Osaka, Japan. The winner will be announced next summer.

The 2004 Games are scheduled for Athens.

Coming up next year is the retirement of the International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch. In an interview reported by the Associated Press, Samaranch seemed to throw his weight behind an American as his successor, IOC vice president Anita DeFrantz: "She fulfills all the preconditions: she sits on the executive board; she won an Olympic medal; she is a woman. We will see."

But Samaranch also had melancholy words: "Many people believe the IOC president is very powerful and does what he wants. That isn't true."

The Olympic Job Opportunities Program gets companies involved in helping athletes work and train.

The leading participant is Home Depot, which employs 35 athletes as part of the US Olympic Committee-sponsored program. Since 1992, it has supported more than 200.

The Olympic athletes work about 1,040 hours per year - on a half-time basis - with their work hours revolving around their training and competitive demands. But they still receive full-time wages and benefits.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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