Entries in Olympics (44)


US, Iran Band Together to Save Wrestling as an Olympic Sport

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Washington and Tehran have finally found common ground although it has nothing to do with Iran's rogue nuclear program.

Last week's announcement that the International Olympic Committee's executive board has recommended dropping wrestling as an event for the 2020 Summer Games is putting the U.S. and Iran on the same side.

Both countries want to save wrestling and will make an appeal to the IOC to keep it as an Olympic sport.

Iran's other strong allies, Russia and Cuba, are also said to be angered by the IOC decision, which could be reversed later this year although most Olympic observers don't believe that will happen.

While the U.S. and Iran can agree on this issue, there have been no diplomatic ties between the two governments in more than three decades.

Wrestling is a particularly big sport in Iran.  Tehran will host the Wrestling World Cup starting Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


China Denies Scripting Dramatic Olympic Moment

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Could the Chinese government have orchestrated one of the most dramatic moments at the London Olympics, right down to the tears state-television anchors cried on air?

A collective gasp was heard across China when its national hero, the track-and-field star Liu Xiang, hit the first hurdle in the men’s 110-meter race. As Liu crumbled to the ground, anchors on China’s Central Television, which carried the event live, froze. And then, as if on cue, CCTV’s lead anchor, Yang Jian, began to speak as best he could. At times choked up, he called Liu a “soldier” who bravely “charged the enemy’s fortress with his own body.”

Widespread reports in Chinese media claim that Yang knew full well that Liu had a serious injury before the race and, following government orders, had prepared four different versions of “live reaction” to read on air, depending on Liu’s performance. A headline this week in the Oriental Guardian read, “Liu Xiang knew, CCTV knew and leaders knew – only spectators foolishly waited to witness a moment of miracle.”

The government was aware that Liu had hurt his right Achilles (the same injury that kept him from competing at the Beijing Games in 2008) while training in Germany, according to the South China Morning Post. Liu had it checked in London after he arrived and was told it was serious. But soon after, according to the Post, the government issued a gag order on state television.

The Chinese government arguably had a vested interest in maintaining Liu’s superstar status.  China’s sports authority gets a cut of everything he makes in endorsements. Liu earned $25 million in 2008, according to Forbes magazine. His endorsement deals include Nike, BMW and more.

China’s sports authority has denied that it knowingly let him run with a potentially career-ending injury. Feng Shuyong, China’s athletic director for London 2012, told Xinhua News Agency, “if we could have predicted he would be injured, no one would have let Liu run.”

In Shanghai Thursday, Liu also defended his race, telling CCTV, “I didn’t expect the injury to happen. I think I was healthy when I was standing on the field.”

Choreographed or not, Liu practically had all of China in tears after his fall. Clearly in pain, he hopped toward the finish line, pausing only to kiss the final hurdle. He left the stadium in a wheelchair.

Liu has yet to say whether he will retire from the sport.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cheers and Tears at the US Women's Gymnastic Final

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Gabby Douglas garnered loud cheers as she prepared to take the beam today, but her performance ended her Olympics debut on a sour note.

From the beginning, the U.S. gymnast was wobbly in the women's beam final. A fall off the beam sank her hopes of a medal, but her performance was marked by near-falls throughout.

Her fall came after a backhand spring that she failed to land. Her right foot slipped, causing Douglas to fall to the beam and hang on with her arms. She managed to avoid injury, but her score of 13.633 landed her in last place.

Teammate Aly Raisman's fortunes were different. After judges watched an instant replay, they boosted her from fourth place to a bronze medal.

Raisman was much more in control than Douglas, avoiding fatal errors. Her only missteps were a balance check on her front full and a slight bounce on her Arabian double dismount, but the Massachusetts native narrowly missed the bronze medal with a score of 14.966.

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After U.S. officials protested the result, however, judges watched her routine on the monitors, announcing within minutes that they would raise her execution score to 6.3, tying her total score with Romanian Catalina Ponor. Because her execution score was higher than Ponor's, Raisman won the bronze medal.

The surprise win for Raisman was redemption for the stoic team captain, who narrowly missed out on the bronze medal after she lost a tiebreaker in the women's all-around final. Douglas won that event, becoming the first African-American to do so.

Deng Linlin and Sui Lu of China won the gold and silver medals in the beam final.

Later, in the floor event, Raisman bested Ponor again, taking the gold over Ponor's silver by a margin of .400. Aliya Mustafina, the Russian gymnast who took the gold in the uneven bars, in which Douglas placed a disappoiting eighth, won bronze on the floor.

American star gymnast Jordyn Weiber finished seventh.

Raisman finishes out her time at London 2012 with gold medals in the team and floor events and a bronze from the beam final.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Judo Fighter Expelled After Testing Positive for Marijuana

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- American judo fighter Nicholas Delpopolo was expelled from the Olympics today for failing a drug test, which he said was caused by mistakenly eating something that had been baked with pot.

"My positive test was caused by my inadvertent consumption of food that I did not realize had been baked with marijuana before I left for the Olympic Games," Delpopolo, 23, said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Delpopolo's expulsion from the games came after he placed seventh in the 73-kilogram judo event on July 30. Immediately after competing, Delpopolo, who is from New Jersey, provided a urine sample that tested positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Delpopolo is the first of the 10,500 athletes in London to fail an in-competition drug test.

The International Olympic Committee disqualified Delpopolo from the event and ordered that his diploma be reallocated to the fighters who placed beneath him.

"I apologize to U.S. Olympic Committee, to my teammates, and to my fans, and I am embarrassed by this mistake," Delpopolo said in a statement. "I look forward to representing my country in the future, and will rededicate myself to being the best judo athlete that I can be."

The U.S. Olympic Committee released a statement supporting Delpopolo's disqualification.

"[The USOC] absolutely committed to clean competition and stringent anti-doping penalties," spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "Any positive test, for any banned substance, comes with the appropriate consequences and we absolutely support the disqualification."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Arrested for Throwing Bottle on Olympic Track

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images(LONDON) -- An Olympics that has gone off with nary a disruption got its first taste of unruly behavior Sunday from a fan who threw a beer bottle onto the Olympic track moments before the much-anticipated men’s 100m track final was set to begin.

As racing stars Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and Yohan Blake took their marks to claim their spots in Olympic history, a beer bottle sailed from the stands, landing just behind the runners’ starting blocks as the announcer called “set.”

The man, whom police did not identify, was immediately apprehended and arrested on suspicion of creating a public nuisance, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.  He remained in police custody overnight and was expected to appear in court today.  If charged, he could face a prison sentence, fine, or both, since creating a public nuisance is a common law offense in the United Kingdom.

Police said the man had been shouting in the stands before he threw the bottle.  The race went on as planned, and the victor, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, said he was not aware of the distraction at all.

The man who finished in third place, American Justin Gatlinsaid, said he was aware of the ruckus but did not think it  had an impact on the race.

In a strange coincidence and turn of bad luck for the suspect, Dutch bronze medal-winning judo competitor Edith Bosch tweeted that she had punched a “drunken” man.

“A drunken guest throws a bottle for me on the track! I have beaten him … unbelievable! #angry #disrespectful,” Bosch posted in Dutch, according to the New Zealand Herald.

She later told Dutch television reporters that she had seen the suspect acting in an unusual way before he threw the bottle.

“I had seen the man walking around earlier and said to people around me that he was a peculiar bloke,” she said. “Then he threw that bottle and in my emotion I hit him on the back with the flat of my hand.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Ever Female Saudi Olympian Competes in London 2012 Games

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Girls are not allowed in physical education classes in Saudi Arabia.  They are not allowed to play in sports clubs -- or even walk through the clubs' front doors.

But none of that stopped Wojdan Shahrkhani from making history Friday morning when she became the first ever female Saudi Olympian.

Never mind that the 16-year-old looked shaky and unsure in her first judo bout, which she lost in just 82 seconds.  Never mind that she left the mat without bowing, as is customary after matches, and needed to be reminded to do so.

She competed.  And that means in defeat, she was victorious -- both for her deeply conservative homeland and for the Olympics itself.

At the 1996 Atlanta Games, 26 countries had no female participants. Only 16 years later, this is the first Olympics where every team has women -- and where women will compete in all 26 sports. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei were the last holdouts.

"This is a major boost for gender equality," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who has described Shahrkhani as a "symbol" of progress.

In her home country, Shahrkhani's participation has been hotly debated and was not guaranteed.  She and her fellow female Olympian Sarah Attar have been labeled "Olympic whores" online.

"Sports should be first and foremost for men.  Women should follow," argued Saudi Cleric Ahmad Al-Mu'abi during a recently televised debate, according to a clip posted by the pro-Israeli media monitoring firm, Memri.  "It is in women's nature to keep themselves covered up.  Whoever thinks that we restrict women is wrong.  The woman is a hidden gem.  Anybody who has a gem tries to protect it, so that nobody sees it or covets it."

But on Friday, even after losing quickly, she received support online.

Shaherkani is at the Games not because she met the qualifying standard for participation, but because the IOC facilitates participation by underrepresented countries.  Whereas her competitors are black belts, she is a mere blue belt.

"They are champions she is fighting, and my daughter, for her it is the first competition," her father, who is also her coach, said in the arena Friday.

Attar, the second ever female Saudi athlete, will compete in the 800m run on Aug. 8.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Olympic Badminton Players Disqualified Over Match Throwing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- They tried to lose to win. And now they have been thrown out of the Olympics.

It was a stunt so glaring, so obvious that the crowds jeered and the referees tried to intervene.

It began when Chinese top seeded women Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang starting serving into the net and missed easy volleys. Already guaranteed a slot in the next round, they want to let South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na finish at the top of Group A so they could avoid playing Chinese compatriots and second seeds Tian Qingand Zhao Yunlei at least until the final. If the strategy worked China could win gold and silver.

The South Koreans realized what was happening and responded by copying the antics of the Chinese pair. That prompted the referee to stop play and warn all players. But play resumed, the match ending unusually quickly with the Koreans winning.

But it did not end there.

The other South Korean pair, third seeds Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, tried to orchestrate defeat in their game against Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They seemed to be trying to avoid Yu and Wang in the quarter-finals.

It gets worse. The Indonesians, spotting the shenanigans, tried to play along and lose too.

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The crowd was incensed. As were the TV commentators.

Clearly the players had conveniently forgotten the words of the Olympic oath they had pledged just days ago: "In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

It did not take long for Badminton World Federation to respond. This morning the eight players were kicked out the Olympic games, accused of "not using one's best efforts to win" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."

All four pairs were accused of wanting to lose in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage.

Speaking before the verdict, Korea's coach Sung Han-kook said: "The Chinese started this. They did it first. It's a complicated thing with the draws. They didn't want to meet each other in the semi-final, they don't want that to happen. ...They (BWF) should do something about that."

A new round-robin stage was introduced at this year's games in place of a straight knockout tournament. In this new system losing one game can lead to an easier game in the next round.

There is zero sympathy for the players who so brazenly tried to game the system.

"I'm furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport," said Gail Emms, a badminton Olympic silver medalist for Great Britain in 2004, who was at the event for BBC Sport. "This is the Olympic Games. This is something that is not acceptable. The crowd paid good money to watch two matches."

All this comes just a day after another controversy involving a Chinese swimming-star Ye Shiwen, a 16-year-old who snagged gold on Saturday in the 400 meter individual medley at a pace that shattered the world record by more than a second and knocked five seconds off her personal best in the final 50 meters of the race. She was even faster in that last lap than American medal winner Ryan Lochte in the men's race.

That victory prompted John Leonard, head of the American Swimming Coaches Association, to say her performance "was reminiscent of some old East German swimmer." That was a blunt suggestion that the Chinese were using illegal performance enhancing drugs as they had so frequently in the 1990s.

But Ye's doping tests came back clear and swimmers around the world jumped to her defense. The Chinese were indignant that anyone would suggest they would cheat at the Olympics.

Their cheating badminton players? They have promised to investigate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Male Synchronized Swim Team Barred from Olympics 

ABC News(LONDON) -- At the Queen Mother Sports Centre in the heart of London, a group of medal-winning athletes is training for one of the most demanding Olympic competitions-- synchronized swimming. Their sport requires precision, teamwork and stamina.

But no matter how hard they train, no matter how good they are, this team isn't welcome at the 2012 Summer Games, for one simple reason: They're men.

Synchronized swimming was first demonstrated at the Olympics in 1952, and didn't become an official sport until 1984, but then it was only opened to female teams.

The Out To Swim Angels are Britain's only male synchronized swimming team. Last month they wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee and FINA, swimming's governing body, arguing that men deserve to compete in synchronized swimming as well.

[ VIEW SLIDESHOW: UK's All-Male Synchronized Swim Team ]

"There's still this same of sort old mindset. Oh well it's pretty, it's for girls," said team member Ronan Daly. "But no, we want to challenge that and say boys can do this as well."

Watch the exclusive interview with the Out To Swim Angels on ABC's Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT

These guys are not the first. Californian Kenyon Smith was one of best synchronized swimmers in the world, when he was blocked out from entering the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Four years earlier, Bill May, who won several awards swimming with women, was barred from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Now these Brits say enough is enough. In their letter to the IOC, they're asking that the rules be changed in time for the Summer Games in Rio in 2016.

"I think it's incredible ironic that the Olympics are all about equality, yet we don't have a chance to compete, and other mens' teams don't have a chance to participate," said team captain Stephen Adshead.

Synchronized swimming was glamorized by actress and professional swimmer Esther Williams in the 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1980s, comedians Martin Short and Harry Shearer poked fun at the idea of men competing in the sport on Saturday Night Live.

The Out To Swim Angels said to get the public to take them seriously, all they need to do is demonstrate their routine. The swimmers never touch the bottom of the pool, and their moves require incredible core strength.

The team was created three years ago and is coached by Sanela Nikolic, a former Yugoslav champion. Last year they brought home a gold medal from the Eurogames in Rotterdam.

Along with the battle for acceptance, Adshead says the team is also fighting to stay afloat financially, since renting time at the local swimming pool can be costly.

Still, the team promises to keep kicking, to get the Olympic Committee to recognize that men can compete just as well as women in this challenging sport.

"We need the younger people to do this, to encourage kids to get involved in synchro," said team member George Gardiner. "We need to build up the talent, train hard and hopefully we'll see guys doing Olympic level synchro in a few years time."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


2012 Olympics: Opening Ceremony to Bring Spectacle, Surprises

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Now that the Olympic torch has made its way through the streets of London, even passing Prince William and Kate Middleton at Buckingham Palace, excitement is building for the opening ceremony.  But as the world watches, the one question on everyone's mind is: Who will light the cauldron at Olympic stadium?

Thousands of people packed London's Hyde Park as the torch made its last stop before the official start of the games Friday night.  Nearly 60,000 spectators, including the world's top athletes, will be on hand to witness the extravaganza.

At the helm of the ceremony is British film director Danny Boyle, who won the 2008 best director Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire.  Boyle plans to use the ceremony to celebrate England's history, offering a healthy dollop of the country's pop cultural exports, from Shakespeare to James Bond.  Current 007 Daniel Craig is expected to attend Friday night's spectacle.

Early reports indicate that the ceremony will include a pastoral countryside and 120 farm animals -- including 70 sheep, 12 horses and three cows.  There is also talk of a fake rain cloud, for effect.  The full look is said to resemble a live movie, taking viewers through years of Great Britain's history.

On Friday morning, glimpses of last-minute rehearsals with Boyle's cast and crew of 10,000 could be seen, while the 86-track play list for the three-hour show leaked to the British press.

Included on the track are some British staples -- "God Save the Queen" will be heard, as Queen Elizabeth II will be in attendance.  But Boyle, also known for edgier fare such as 1996's Trainspotting, has opted to use the grimier Sex Pistols version of the anthem.

There will also, of course, be plenty of Beatles selections, and Paul McCartney will lead the crowd in a sing-along.

Although the masses won't know who will be the last person to hold the Olympic torch and light the cauldron, excitement is at a fever pitch, particularly among some of the athletes, who have spent years working and sweating and hoping to reach this moment.

"I'm ecstatic," U.S. boxer James Herring told ABC News.  "I'm really excited just to see the performers and the show that they will be putting on for us, so I'm just -- really just filled with energy right now."

American diver Abby Johnston said that the ceremony will make her realize her dream is finally coming true.

"I'm still like -- is this real?  Am I really here?" she said.  "And I think being at the opening ceremonies will really make it sink in."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


2012 Olympics: Michelle Obama Cheers on US Team in London

Adam Jacobs/Getty Images(LONDON) -- First lady Michelle Obama spoke to members of the U.S. Olympic team on Friday, telling the athletes that she's thrilled to be in London to cheer them on in person.

"I'm proud to have the chance to cheer you guys on in person for the very first time in my life -- in person!  At the Olympics!  In London!  And then I'm gonna be cheering back home too after they send me away," Mrs. Obama said.

The first lady told the Olympians everybody back home is watching and cheering them on.

"We're all proud of you all. We really are. You've got a country back home who is rooting for you every single second," she said, adding that they'll be inspiring millions of kids back home to get off the couch and take up a sport.

"Whatever happens here think of all that you're gonna be doing for millions of kids. Right this second. Just by the fact that you've worked so hard and got here yourselves," Mrs. Obama said.

Along with the encouragement, the first lady also had one piece of advice for the athletes: "This only happens every few years so, try to have fun, try to breathe a little bit, but also win right?  In the end, winning is good."

The 2012 Olympic Games officially kick off on Friday with an opening ceremony scheduled at 4 p.m. ET.  Earlier in the day, Britain's iconic clock tower chimed non-stop for three minutes to mark the event.  It was the first time Big Ben rang outside its normal schedule since 1952, when it rang for the funeral of King George the 6th.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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