OlympicsSamaranch warns Athens about status of 2004...



Samaranch warns Athens about status of 2004 Games

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch warned yesterday that the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens will be in danger unless Greek organizers make "drastic changes" by the end of this year.

In an extraordinary public broadside, Samaranch said Greece -- birthplace of the Olympics -- had failed to deliver and faced major problems and delays in preparations for the games. Samaranch said it was the worst organizational crisis faced by an Olympic city in his 20 years as president of the International Olympic Committee.

Samaranch said he told the Greeks that organizing the Olympics involves three phases: green, where everything is proceeding smoothly, yellow, where there are "many problems," and red, where the "games are in danger."

"I told them we are at the end of the yellow phase," Samaranch said. "If from now until the end of the year there are no drastic changes, we will enter the red phase."

Later, however, at a news conference, Samaranch appeared to rule out the possibility of the Athens Games being moved elsewhere. " "We hope, after this warning, all the things will be in the right way," he said.

Athens, which staged the first modern games in 1896, was awarded the 2004 Olympics in September 1997. Since then, many of the plans promised during the bid have been changed or dropped, and the organizing committee has been bogged down in government bureaucracy.


MLS' 'single-entity' system is legal, federal judge rules

After a federal judge ruled Major League Soccer's "single-entity" system was legal under antitrust law, the league declared itself a victor in the case, still scheduled for trial Sept. 18.

"For all intents and purposes, MLS has won," league chief operating officer Mark Abbott said. "The judge essentially dismissed the heart of the players' lawsuit. He ruled single entity is proper and lawful, and does not violate antitrust laws."

U.S. District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr., in a 23-page decision, dismissed two of five counts of a class-action lawsuit. But he left three claims to be decided at trial: Whether MLS, its teams and the U.S. Soccer Federation exercised monopoly power; whether the defendants imposed illegal transfer fees; and whether players' promotional rights were violated by the standard player contract.

Under MLS' system, the league office determines all player movement and salaries. Operators of individual franchises are investors in the league, rather than owners of their own teams.

In the suit filed before the start of the 1997 season, MLS' second year of operation, players claimed the single-entity organization disguised a loose collection of individual interests and was designed merely to hold down player salaries.

SUSPENSION: Khodadad Azizi, star of the San Jose Earthquakes and Iranian national team, was suspended for three games and fined $7,500 by the MLS for shoving a referee.

Et cetera

Lukas filly Surfside out after surgery on ankle

Surfside, the Santa Anita Oaks winner and probable favorite in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5, will be out of action for several months after surgery to remove a bone chip in her ankle.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the daughter of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was scheduled for surgery today to remove the chip from her left front ankle.

Surfside finished fifth when she faced the colts in her most recent start, in the Santa Anita Derby on April 8, but was still considered "possible" for a run in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

JURISPRUDENCE: Peter Warrick was picking up trash along a highway in Tallahassee, Fla., five days after the Cincinnati Bengals selected him fourth overall in the NFL draft.

Warrick, the star receiver who helped lead Florida State to the national championship, was completing part of 30 days of community service for his guilty plea to petty theft in connection with a department store scam in September.

DITKA: The city attorney of New Orleans refused to prosecute Mike Ditka on a criminal charge filed by a former casino pit boss who claims the former New Orleans Saints coach hurled a lighted cigar into his face during a dispute over a craps throw.

"Our review of the facts reveals no crime of assault because assault requires specific intent," City Attorney Mavis Early said in a news release.

The March 16 incident, which was confirmed by state police, resulted in Ditka being barred from the casino for three months.

TENNIS: The senior tennis tour featuring John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors will become the Success Magazine Tour in America. The new sponsorship and name will cover the ATP Tour-sanctioned events in the United States, beginning with the tour's 1999-2000 season-ending tournament to be played June 13-18 in New York's Central Park.

From staff and wire reports

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