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Wringing out

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING - At least the Olympic flame still burned.

Rain washed over this city yesterday, forcing Olympic officials to cancel events, volunteers to hand out brightly colored ponchos to athletes and schedule-makers to work overtime.

While the rainstorm certainly couldn't be called The Great Squall of China, it fell steadily enough to affect softball, baseball, rowing, tennis, canoe-kayak and sailing. Yes, even the watersports were all wet.

In softball, the heavily favored U.S. women's team will sleep on a 1-0 deficit after its game against Canada was suspended in the fourth inning. That decision came after nearly four hours of delays.

"What was incredible was when the storm erupted in the stands, BOCOG [Beijing Organizing Committee Olympic Games] had over 30 people out there with sponges and rags; they had extra dirt for the field," said Julie Bartel, public relations director for USA softball. "We came back after the first delay and they had wiped every seat, every counter and had plastic covers on all the [computer] monitors. They were really, really prepared for the rain."

But it didn't stop. So the U.S. softball team will play its regularly scheduled game against Japan at noon, then resume its contest with Canada.

The U.S. men's baseball team led 6-0 in the eighth inning when rain forced a delay of 1 hour, 35 minutes. When play resumed, the U.S. scored to make it 7-0, then watched the Netherlands load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth.

But rain forced a two-hour delay until umpires called the game. That prompted the Dutch team to file a protest with International Baseball Federation officials that is pending.

Respective international federations work in concert with BOCOG officials regarding delays and postponements, according to a BOCOG spokesperson.

Rescheduling is an intense process. The spokesperson said changes are discussed and implemented with the input of four bodies-BOCOG, the International Olympic Committee, Beijing Olympic Broadcast and respective international federations for the various sports.

At skeet shooting, competitors huddled under umbrellas between rounds. Streets flooded nearby the softball venue.

Bruce Wawrzyniak, director of communications for the International Softball Federation, said this is the first postponement in the sport's Olympic history. The gold-medal game at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, however, was played in rain.

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