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T&T is among some 13 countries publicly backing Sebastian Coe's campaign to become the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). 

Twelve of the Federations to have come out in support of Britain's double Olympic 1500 metres champion are from the North American, Central America and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC).

Coe had visited the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica's capital San José last weekend, along with Sergey Bubka, his rival from Ukraine.

Apart from T&T, the countries backing him are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Puerto Rico, St Vincent and Grenadines,  Turks and Caicos and US Virgin Islands.

They join Canada and Jamaica, members of the NACAC who had already publicly backed Coe ahead of the election to replace Senegal's Lamine Diack, who is stepping down after 16 years, at the IAAF Congress in Beijing on Wednesday. 

Several other of the NACAC's 31 members are also expected to vote for Coe, including the United States, who have already revealed they will not say publicly who they are supporting. 

Greece have also joined the growing number of European countries supporting Coe.

Ghana became the first country from Africa to publicly promise to vote for Coe, while Peru, Paraguay, Singapore and Thailand had pledged their support for Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion. 

It takes to 36 the number of countries who have publicly endorsed Coe, compared to five for Bubka. 

Source

As the opening date for the London Olympics nears, Beijing's acclaimed Olympic venues are saddled with high maintenance costs and are struggling to get by. And the most famous, the Bird's Nest stadium, has been repudiated by its own creator, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Even the state-run government mouthpiece, the China Daily, worries that Beijing's iconic structures risk becoming "white elephants."

To the bang of drums and the roar of the crowds, Beijing's 2008 Olympics opened with a boom. The spectacular opening ceremony was fitting for the spectacular Bird's Nest. Girdled with strips of concrete, it was an ambitious structure for a new superpower.


But four years on, the Bird's Nest is looking tired and empty.

A 'Kind Of Dirty' Construction Zone

These days, a smattering of mostly Chinese tour groups trickles though the stadium. Visitor numbers are in free fall: They plummeted by half in the first six months of 2011 compared with a year before, according to state-run media. The Bird's Nest cost $480 million to build, and its upkeep costs $11 million a year.

But the only international visitors sitting in the stands on a recent day aren't impressed.

"For me, it's just a huge concrete place," says German tourist Christian Lodz. "Personally I think, after four years, it looks a little bit shabby."

"What I think is interesting is that it's just not used for anything useful," says his countryman Henne Zelle, waving at a crane and tarpaulins in the middle of the stadium. "There's a construction zone there, and it's kind of dirty."

The problem is how to fill the empty expanse of seats; the stadium is designed to house 91,000 spectators.

Since the Olympics, a number of tactics have been tried: The construction of man-made ski slopes turned it temporarily into a winter wonderland, and tightrope walker Adili Wuxor spent two months living suspended on a tightrope above the Bird's Nest trying to set a new world record.

It's a far cry from the world record set by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who set the mark for the 100 meters and the 200 meters in the packed Bird's Nest. Now, tourists wobble around the same track on Segways, which they hire for just over $20 for 15 minutes.

There's even a small waxworks museum, exhibiting figurines of all the past and present presidents of the International Olympic Committee. When he called Beijing's Olympic venues "beautiful" and "unprecedented," current IOC President Jacques Rogge can hardly have known he would be immortalized in wax inside one of those venues, always photo-ready, should the visitor be willing to part with $1.50 for the privilege.

But the long-term future of the stadium is unclear. The Beijing soccer team, Guo'an, shied away from making it their home, perhaps wary of the costs. There are few events that can fill enough seats.

This summer, the stadium stands unused — except as a tourist destination — for three months, from the end of an equestrian show in May until its next engagement, a soccer match between British teams Arsenal and Manchester City at the end of July.

Cube's Qualified Success Story

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, on the other hand, has found an afterlife. Known as the Water Cube, the translucent color-shifting building, where the swimming events were held, is the only Beijing Olympic venue that was financed by public donations, in this case by 350,000 overseas Chinese.

Now, one part of it has been turned into a water park, where swimmers shoot down colorful tubes into the pools of water. It's even launched a line of branded goods, including Water Cube alcohol, which sells at a cool $150 a bottle.

But still, turning a profit isn't easy.

"It's extremely, extremely difficult not to lose money," Yang Qiyong, the Water Cube's deputy manager, says with a frank laugh.

He angrily denies state-run media reports that the facility lost $1.5 million last year. But according to the state-run Global Times, Yang says the Water Cube attracted nearly 2.1 million visitors in 2011, 30 percent fewer compared with the year before.

"Although we put in a lot of effort, the trend of diminishing numbers can't be reversed," he says.

Yang says the Water Cube narrowly broke even last year, though it required $1.5 million in government subsidies.

"Without that money, we couldn't hold important sports events. Some international competitions clearly lose lots of money. But in order to maintain our venue's image, we must host them," Yang says.

And it's all about image.

"It really is worth it," Yang says. "Regardless of whether you're talking about Beijingers or Chinese people, we needed a landmark venue, a place whose image is beautiful."

China's Pride Or Propaganda?

Chinese tourist Wang Xiaoyu feels the same way, as he stands inside the Bird's Nest for the first time.

"I'm proud that China has this great architecture, that it can build such a great world monument. How can you not feel proud?" he asks, beaming from ear to ear.

The official audio tour describes the stadium in these symbolic terms: "The Bird's Nest, as a symbol of the rise of the Chinese nation, will follow the nation's footsteps in its rise to glory."

But the Chinese artist who helped conceive of the Bird's Nest now says he regrets having designed such a monument to China's Communist leaders.

Ai Weiwei designed the stadium, together with Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. But Ai has never set foot inside the finished building.

He told NPR that the stadium has become entirely divorced from ordinary people.

"We love this building, but we don't like the content they have put in, the kind of propaganda. They dissociated this building [from] citizens' celebration or happiness; [it's] not integrated with the city's life," Ai said. "So I told them I will never go to this building."

The triumphant music pumped out into the Bird's Nest over video of cheering crowds now falls into a vacuum. It was designed as a stage for China's coming-out party, to send a message to the world. But in this land of government-backed vanity projects, this empty, echoing stadium now sends a very different message.

-Louisa Lim

www.npr.org

Five members of the gold medal winning line-up at the 2008 Beijing Games were included in the 12-man US Olympic basketball team announced by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo on Saturday.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams return for another bid for Olympic glory and will spearhead a potent roster in London where the US are favourites.

Colangelo announced the selections after two US team training sessions in Las Vegas, though final approval is still required by the US Olympic Committee.

"We projected we would have difficulty getting down to a roster of 12, regardless of the number of injuries that have taken place, because they are such an outstanding group of people and athletes," Colangelo said in a statement.

"The final selections keep us in concert with our game plan to have athleticism, versatility and strong depth on our roster. I think our final roster epitomises all of that."

The US team had been hit by a recent rash of injuries to several leading candidates, including Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

"We have benefited so much from having a pool of outstanding players who are committed, and as a result the selection is difficult," US coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

"But it's the best challenge that you could have because everyone has been so committed."

Meanwhile, Russia and Lithuania secured their Olympic places by advancing to the final of the qualifying tournament in Venezuela on Saturday night.

Alexey Shved poured in 22 points to lead the Russians to an 85-77 victory over Nigeria in the first semi-final in Caracas and then Jonas Maciulis' 19-point haul helped Lithuania stroll past Dominican Republic 109-83.

The losing semi-finalists will go head to head on Sunday for the one remaining berth on offer for London 2012.

-Telegraph Sport

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Five members of the gold medal winning line-up at the 2008 Beijing Games were included in the 12-man US Olympic basketball team announced by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo on Saturday.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams return for another bid for Olympic glory and will spearhead a potent roster in London where the US are favourites.

Colangelo announced the selections after two US team training sessions in Las Vegas, though final approval is still required by the US Olympic Committee.

"We projected we would have difficulty getting down to a roster of 12, regardless of the number of injuries that have taken place, because they are such an outstanding group of people and athletes," Colangelo said in a statement.

"The final selections keep us in concert with our game plan to have athleticism, versatility and strong depth on our roster. I think our final roster epitomises all of that."

The US team had been hit by a recent rash of injuries to several leading candidates, including Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

"We have benefited so much from having a pool of outstanding players who are committed, and as a result the selection is difficult," US coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

"But it's the best challenge that you could have because everyone has been so committed."

Meanwhile, Russia and Lithuania secured their Olympic places by advancing to the final of the qualifying tournament in Venezuela on Saturday night.

Alexey Shved poured in 22 points to lead the Russians to an 85-77 victory over Nigeria in the first semi-final in Caracas and then Jonas Maciulis' 19-point haul helped Lithuania stroll past Dominican Republic 109-83.

The losing semi-finalists will go head to head on Sunday for the one remaining berth on offer for London 2012.

-Telegraph Sport

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Sunny weather in London is "very unlikely" during the Olympic Games which begin later this month, forecasters said after the wettest June on record in Britain.
Britain's Met Office predicted slightly better conditions for the month ahead than in recent weeks when torrential rains triggered severe flooding in parts of the country.
But forecasters said "below average sunshine" and temperatures are expected during the London 2012 Games which run from July 27 to August 12.
"Climatologically this is the warmest part of the year, but this year a protracted spell of hot, sunny weather looks very unlikely," the Met Office said in its 30-day outlook.
"In fact the inclement weather that has characterised June and early July will probably still be in evidence, although overall conditions are unlikely to be as bad."
Very wet conditions in southern England were more probable than dry ones, the Met Office warned, while stressing that the outlook for rainfall remained "extremely uncertain".
The forecast comes as heavy rains continue to hit large swathes of Britain where authorities issued more than 150 flood alerts and warnings on Sunday.
A man in his early 20s was killed in Northumberland, in northeast England, on Saturday after his car crashed on a rain-drenched road.
Meanwhile at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone 25,000 spectators were told to go home on Saturday because of flooded car parks.
Britain experienced double the average amount of rainfall last month, making it the wettest June since records began in 1910, the Met Office said.
The period from April to June was also the wettest recorded.
Celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee were marred by the inclement weather in early June but millions of Britons turned out regardless to mark her 60 years on the throne.

-AFP

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