Michael Phelps sneaked into Beijing almost unnoticed. He's unlikely to go out that way.
Phelps, of Rodgers Forge and the probable star of the Beijing Olympics, avoided hundreds of fans, photographers and reporters yesterday by taking a side door out to a waiting bus while his teammates pushed luggage trolleys through the arrival gate at Beijing's new Terminal3, a sprawling addition to the city's airport.
He was eventually spotted - in a window seat on the team bus - by dozens of reporters and photographers. He ignored most of the cameras, glancing in their direction a few times as he adjusted the fit of his baseball cap.
One young Chinese girl said she had waited five hours hoping to get an autograph. She also carried an envelope in her hand, addressed in imperfect English: "To Michael Phelps you have to look at." Asked why she wanted to see Phelps, a friend standing nearby answered for her.
"Because she thinks he's handsome."
Phelps, who won six gold medals four years ago in Athens, is aiming to surpass Mark Spitz's seven-gold effort at the 1972 Munich Games. Phelps will compete in eight events in Beijing, three of which are relays.
"I'm looking to do something different that the sport has never seen," Phelps said a few days ago in Singapore.
At last year's world championships in Australia, Phelps won seven events and was denied the chance for an eighth victory when a teammate was disqualified from the preliminaries of a relay the Americans were heavily favored to win.
Dara Torres, the 41-year-old self-described "old lady" of the U.S. team, was one of the few swimmers to speak in the rush to board the bus.
"It's finally sunk in," said Torres, who will compete in her fifth Olympics. "I am very excited to be here. I just want to get to the pool and start swimming a little bit."
•Women's basketball Diana Taurasi scored 21points and the United States pulled away in the second half, beating the Russians, 93-58, in the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament. In a much-hyped matchup against her native country, Becky Hammon scored 10 points for Russia, but her adopted team was no match for the Americans. This was the first meeting between the United States and Russia since the Russians beat the Americans in the 2006 world championship semifinals.
•SoccerEven if European soccer clubs win a court case to keep their players out of the Beijing Olympics, FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants them to play anyway. After FIFA ruled players must be released for the Olympic tournament, clubs appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport , world sport's highest authority. A ruling is expected tomorrow.
•MarathonEngland's Paula Radcliffe intends to run the marathon at the Beijing Olympics "unless my leg breaks down." The world record-holder has been trying to overcome a stress fracture in her left thigh in time to compete in her fourth straight Olympics.
•Internet broadcastingOlympic content will be available via YouTube in 77 territories where digital rights have not been sold, or have been acquired on a non-exclusive basis, the International Olympic Committee said. The IOC did not release financial details of the deal. The package from Beijing will include highlights, news and daily clips of the competitions and will be directed primarily to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Internet users outside the 77 territories will blocked from seeing the clips through a technology called "geo-blocking."