- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

From combined dispatches

LAUSANNE, Switzerland | Two Iraqi rowers will be allowed to take part in the Beijing Olympics, the International Rowing Federation said Wednesday.

“We called the IOC and asked if we could have the rowers back, and the answer just came through,” federation executive director Matt Smith said. “We’re very happy.”

The two rowers, Haidar Nozad and Hamzah Hussein Jebur, were returned to the men’s double sculls field because their places had not been given to competitors from other countries, Smith said.

The readmission was possible because North Korea declined to take up the slots after it was offered them last week, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.

The International Olympic Committee readmitted Iraq to the Olympics on Tuesday, six days after the deadline to enter athletes for the rowing, judo, archery and weightlifting competitions had passed.

IOC officials had said then that Iraq only would be able to send two track and field athletes to Beijing because of a later deadline.

Officials with the international judo, archery and weightlifting federations say Iraqi athletes will not be able to compete in those sports as the places they lost last week have been given to other countries.

Nike yields in the pool

BEAVERTON, Ore. | Nike will allow its swimmers to wear Speedo’s sleek LZR Racer instead of its own suit at the Beijing Olympics.

Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the company felt it was fair to extend the offer it made in June allowing its swimmers to wear Speedo’s suit at the U.S. Olympic trials.

“It is about putting their performance and their focus first,” Stoyer said. “This is what they have trained for. It is the biggest moment of their lives.”

Four swimmers who signed with Nike, which has some of the industry’s tightest controls on athlete contract agreements, are heading to the Olympics.

IOC admits Internet deal

BEIJING | Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive Web sites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted.

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have complained this week of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked.

“I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on Web site access during games time,” IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said, referring to Beijing’s Olympic organizers.

“I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered games-related,” he said.

Nowitzki gains support

FRANKFURT, Germany | Fans of Dirk Nowitzki have mounted an Internet campaign they hope will lead to his selection as Germany’s flag bearer in the opening ceremonies.

Germany’s basketball team, led by the 30-year-old Nowitzki, qualified for the games 10 days ago. Signatures reached 3,800 on a Web site.

“That would be super,” the Dallas Mavericks star said. “I would be honored.”

FIFA orders release

ZURICH | FIFA ruled that professional clubs must release players age 23 or younger for the Olympics, clearing the way for Lionel Messi to play for Argentina despite opposition from FC Barcelona.

Slim Aloulou, a Tunisian judge on FIFA’s player status committee, said the release was “mandatory for all clubs.”

“Taking part in the Olympic Games is a unique opportunity for all athletes of any sporting discipline,” FIFA said in a statement. “It would not be justifiable to prevent any player younger than 23 from participating in such an event if his representative team had qualified.”

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