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Daily Archives: February 23, 2008

British athletes choose Macau

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by Nigel Huxtable

At least 130 of the millions of visitors that will travel to Macau this year won't be here to try their luck at a casino, nor to check out the Las Vegas Strip of the East or even attend one of the growing number of exhibitions. 

In the words of their tour guide, they will be “the most boring” guests the SAR will receive this year.
The British Olympic Association is sending half it its Beijing Games team to Macau in the final days before each of their events.
After their stay here, the guests will make a three and a half hour flight to Beijing where they will compete at the highest level of their chosen sport on behalf of their country and in front of millions of viewers.
It is this honour and the commitment that has brought them here that will keep the athletes from enjoying the host of attractions in Macau, said Bernard Cotton, the association's Olympic Performance Manager.
Teams from all over the world will descend upon Asian in the final months before the games to acclimatise to the weather and cut down on the final travel time to Beijing.
More then 20 countries will set up camp in Japan and 15 in South Korea. After a three year search that began in 2003 and included visits to Hong Kong, Hiroshima, Bangkok and locations in the mainland, the British settled on Macau.
Admitting Hong Kong was the obvious choice for their camp, Mr Cotton said Macau had offered equally good facilities without the headache of the second SAR's congestion.
“Hong Kong is a very busy and frenetic and wouldn't produce the most coherent training camp possible,” he said.
“The facilities in Macau are just as good but also much more concentrated, within 25 minutes our athletes can be at the most distant training facility.”
The qualified athletes, 37 reserves and 109 officials, the first of which will arrive on July 23, will take over the Westin Resort in Coloane. Some 4,000 bed nights have been booked and the convention rooms will be turned into dining, medical and relaxation areas including a 28 computer cybercafe.
Teams including the Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Shooting, Weightlifting and Wrestling athletes will make use of the facilities Macau has developed to host three international multi-sport events in the last three years.
The most difficult athletes to accommodate were the distance runners. Wanting to keep the runners away from unpredictable motorists, Mr Cotton scoured the 28 square kilometres of the city looking for a suitable flat surface for the champion runners to train, such as the Paula Radcliffe who won the women's marathon gold medal at the 2005 World Championships and this year's New York marathon. Harrah's Orient golf course provided “the last piece of the puzzle”. Before the first tee-off at 8:30am the runners will run 1.5 kilometre laps of the course while promising to keep off the greens. The association is considering buying the last few tee-off times from the course to allow runners access in the late afternoons.
In total the camp will cost the British approximately 900 thousand pounds (14.2 million patacas) which includes exclusive access the the SAR's sporting venues and, buses, accommodation and fill time access to five employees of the Sport Development Board.

Climate
Since signing an agreement with the Macau government in April 2006, 12 of Britain's teams have visited Macau. Last year the Women's football team prepared for the World Cup which was held in the mainland. The athletics team prepared here before heading to the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. The trips here have given the athletes a chance to become get used to the surroundings and test the wisdom of the association's decision.
Although the weather conditions aren't an exact fit with Beijing, Macau's humidity does match what athletes have felt in the capital at certain periods of the day, said Mr Cotton.
“After preparing in Macau for two weeks (for the 2006 World Junior Athletics Championships in Beijing), our 800 metre junior runners said they were well prepared for the August heat and especially the humidity,” he said.

Culture
A closer cultural match with Beijing was another advantage for Macau, said Mr Cotton. While many nation's teams will be adjusting to the Japanese and Koran cultures before then travelling to China, the British didn't want to subject their athletes to more culture shock than was necessary. Macau provides an easy transition into the mainland.
“Macau is more Chinese than it is at home,” said Mr Cotton, “and the Portuguese elements gives it a European feel.”

Gag-order
Earlier this month British press reported its athletes had been asked to sign a contract agreeing not comment on “politically sensitive issues” during the Games. However the association appears to have softened its stance, now only requiring participants to agree to the IOC charter. The general conditions "provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas." Yesterday Mr Cotton confirmed there would be no additional clause added to the charter and “the final agreement will be exactly the same as it was pre-Athens and pre-Sydney.”

Pollution
The performance manager also downplayed concerns about pollution in Beijing stating that although “one or two athletes may choose to wear masks” it was not a “major concern”.
“We are confident the organising committee and the Chinese government will do everything they can do to make it a sunny and clean Olympics,” he said.
The British also appear to be much more relaxed than the US team about the quality of food athletes will be served. The US will reportedly fly in supplies for its more than 600 athletes during the Games, while the British have “no major concerns about the food in Beijing” said Mr Cotton. He added that the catering in the Olympic village will be of the highest order and the biggest danger will be the “athletes putting on weight”.

Support for Macau's Olympic bid
The Macau Olympic Committee (MOC) continues to lobby the IOC for recognition as an Olympic member and should hear an answer after the Beijing Games, said Manuel Silverio, vice-president of the MOC.
Mr Cotton said he “supports the MOC as a full member of the Olympics” and said he believes the two British members of the IOC do also.
While the British will have by far the largest group training in Macau during the lead up to the Games, athletes from other nations such as the US will also make use of the facilities. The British Paralympians will also be based in Macau before their Games which begin on September 6.
The Summer Olympics run from August 8 to 24. The British marathon runners will be the last to leave the Macau camp, departing on August 21 or 22 for their event on the final day of the games.

McCain camp lashes out at New York Times

Sample Imageby Stephen Collinson*

John McCain's campaign declared war on The New York Times, after the presumptive Republican nominee denied he had a romance with a female lobbyist to whom he was linked in a front-page report.
Denouncing the story in Thursday's paper as a "sleazy, smear attack" McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis asked supporters in an email blast to donate money to fuel a fight-back against the "liberal establishment."
McCain's team relished the fight with the Times, regarded as the paper of record by liberals, but despised by the very conservatives that McCain has struggled to court in his come-from-behind presidential bid.
"We'll never match the reach of a front-page New York Times article, but with your immediate help today, we'll be able to respond and defend our nominee from the liberal attack machine," Davis said in the email.
"The liberal establishment and their allies at The New York Times have gone on the attack," said Davis.
"With John McCain leading a number of general-election polls against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the New York Times knew the time to attack was now," he said.
McCain, on the verge of clinching the Republican nomination, was earlier forced to vehemently deny he had a romantic relationship with Vicki Iseman, 40, about the time he launched his unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true," McCain, 71, said at a hastily arranged press conference in Ohio.
Asked if he had had an extramarital relationship with Iseman in the run-up to his doomed 2000 campaign, McCain said tersely, "no." He said they had been just "friends" who last met at political events "several months ago."
But the Times stood by its story, which cited unnamed sources as saying McCain advisors were convinced "the relationship had become romantic" between the senator and Iseman.
"On the substance, we think the story speaks for itself. On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready," the paper's executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement.
The paper said on its website late Thursday that it had received more than 2,000 comments about its story, many of them critical, and would make editors and reporters available to discuss it on Friday.
McCain also denied ever extending improper favors to companies represented by Iseman when he was chairman of the Senate commerce committee, as insinuated by the Times.
The newspaper said Iseman had also denied a romantic entanglement, but that McCain's aides tried to block her access to the politician, fearing that his image as an ethics crusader might be sullied during his 2000 presidential bid.
Ironically, in January, The New York Times endorsed McCain as its choice of the Republican presidential field, praising him as a "staunch advocate" of "groundbreaking" campaign finance legislation.
Cindy McCain also earlier rallied to her husband.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed in The New York Times," she said.
"More importantly, my children and I not only trust my husband, but know that he would never do anything to not only disappoint our family, but more importantly, disappoint the people of America."
Sex scandals have buried White House contenders in the past, notably Democrat Gary Hart in 1987. Bill Clinton, helped by Hillary Clinton's rock-solid support, survived allegations of an affair to win the presidency in 1992.

* AFP

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