Acuff: Many athletes come to Olympics to party

The September Playboy includes a 12-page nude pictorial "Women of the Olympics."

Among the athletes to appear, according to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal: Amy Acuff, Ineta Radevica, Zhanna Block, Mary Sauer, Haley Cope, Susan Tiedtke-Green, Fanni Juhasz, Katie Vermeulen.

"One of the big misconceptions is that every athlete is 100 percent serious about being there," cover girl Amy Acuff, an American high jumper and two-time Olympian told the paper. "A number of athletes in the Village -- people who know they don't have a chance -- are there to have a party."

Opening Details
Friday's three-hour opening ceremony of the Athens Games will pay homage to
Greek history and the classical period that gave birth to the Olympics.

The ceremony was supposed to be a national secret, but details
leaked out after a dress rehearsal Sunday night.

An Associated Press source said that a giant
statue of Athena -- the city's protector -- will rise into the stadium
through a hole in the middle of the field.

The dress rehearsal also included a Trojan horse. In Homer's
epic, The Iliad, the horse concealed Spartan troops who sacked the
city of Troy.

Another dress rehearsal of the full three-hour ceremony is set for
Tuesday night. About 70,000 spectators are expected, giving
officials a chance to test security, crowd management and transport

China's Stand-up Guy
China's a shoo-in to lead all nations in
at least one category at the Athens Olympics -- tallest flag-bearer.

Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 NBA star, will carry the flag during
Friday's opening ceremony, leading the Chinese delegation of 407
athletes and 230 coaches and officials.

The Houston Rockets' center was selected because of his
character, Chinese officials said.

Strike Two
Two players on the Greek Olympic baseball
team tested positive for banned substances and were thrown off the team.

Andrew James Brack and Derek Nicholson, both U.S.-born Greek
citizens, tested positive in samples taken Aug. 5, the Greek
Olympic Committee said Monday.

Brack tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, while
Nicholson, an alternate on the team, tested positive for diuretics,
officials said.

Nicholson was a center fielder last season for the Toledo Mud
Hens, the Detroit Tigers' Triple-A team. Brack used to play in the
independent Northeast League.

Shrugging Irish
Irish 10,000 meters runner Cathal Lombard admitted taking EPO in a newspaper interview on Monday, less than a week before the start of the Athens Games.

Lombard, 28, who failed a test for EPO, or erythropoietin, a banned
blood-boosting substance which enhances endurance, was quoted as
saying, "Hands up, I did it" in the Irish Examiner daily.

"At the moment, subject to looking at all the information, I
would be unlikely to contest the findings," Lombard told the

The Athletic Association of Ireland said on Saturday that
Lombard had failed a test for EPO and had been asked to a
hearing in Dublin on Tuesday.

Pole Fault
Talk about lost luggage.

Champion pole vaulter Dmitri Markov may be forced to compete with an unfamiliar pole after his own went missing en route from his home in Australia.

The three airlines that Markov used have been unable to trace
the pole since he arrived in Europe two weeks ago. The 2001 world
champion, Markov already has had to use a different pole for a
number of competitions since his arrival.

"I hope that it can be found or he can find a good
replacement," said John Coates, president of the Australian
Olympic Committee. Markov has said that the loss of his pole would
be a tough break for him.

Mascots Maligned
Olympic mascots Phevos and Athena, siblings named for a pair of
Greek deities, are catching an ungodly amount of abuse around Athens.

The pair have been derided in various news articles, described as
animated condoms and mutants from a nuclear meltdown. Their names
were co-opted by anti-Olympic activists, who promptly firebombed
two government vehicles in February.

The creatures were created by a team of six, who billed them as two kids, brother and sister, "full of vitality and
creativity, perhaps mischievous and hence lovable."

Phevos was named for Apollo, the Greek god of light and music.
Athena, the host city's namesake, was the goddess of wisdom. Their bodies are built like an inverted funnel: Narrow at the
neck, extra-wide at the bottom. Their outfits -- his blue, hers orange -- resemble off-the-rack discount caftans.

Creative director Spyros Gogos has said their shape was inspired
by a bell-shaped Greek doll from the seventh century B.C.

Phevos' and Athena's visages grace everything from key rings to kid's clothes. Although there's no
sign of the pair in the main Olympic stadium, pictures of the
siblings greet arrivals at the media village with a cheery message:
"Welcome Home."

And in the pantheon of Olympic mascots, the Greek duo remains
head and shoulders -- if they actually had shoulders -- above the
most-reviled Olympic mascot ever, Izzy of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

Izzy was short for Whatizit, and there were plenty of
answers for that.

NBC announcer Bob Costas maligned the mascot as "a genetic
experiment gone horribly, ghastly wrong."

South Korea's archers are taking careful aim this
summer, eager to continue their five-Olympiad streak of gold

South Korean athletes took three of the four gold medals in
Sydney and swept the podium in the women's individual competition.
Korean women have taken gold in the past five games, and every
women's team gold since the discipline was introduced in Seoul in

The competition will take place at Panathinaikos stadium, the
horseshoe-shaped arena where the first modern Olympic Games were
held in 1896.

Sydney gold medalist and reigning world champion Yun Mi-jin, 21,
leads the South Korean women's team. Her biggest rival is likely to
be her friend and teammate, Park Sung-hyun, the 2001 world

But South Korea's dominance will be challenged by China's Zhang
Juanjuan and Italy's Natalia Valeeva -- the only non-Korean to win
an individual world or Olympic title since 1987.

Italy is the country most likely to break the Korean dominance
in the men's competition, with reigning world champion Michele
Frangilli looking to improve on his silver medal from Sydney.
Sydney gold medalist Simon Fairweather of Australia also will be in
Athens after coming out of retirement.

The Olympic host country has won at least one archery gold medal
in every Olympics since Moscow in 1980, but it may be harder for
Greece to keep up that tradition. The country's top hope is
Evangelia Psarra, who finished 18th in the world championships.

Bulgarian Quits
A senior Bulgarian sports official accused of
Olympic misconduct intends to step down temporarily as head of the
country's national Olympic committee and soccer federation and will
sue the British Broadcasting Corp., his spokesman said Monday.

The move came two days after Ivan Slavkov was suspended as a
member of the IOC for alleged involvement in a bid city corruption

"Slavkov will first go on leave, and then will temporarily step
down from his posts in the Olympic Committee and the Soccer
Union," spokesman Atanas Karaivanov said from the capital, Sofia.

Slavkov was secretly filmed by an undercover BBC television crew
discussing how votes could be bought in the bidding for the 2012
Summer Games. The program also featured four middlemen who said
they could secure IOC members' votes for money.

"Slavkov intends to talk to his lawyers and start a lawsuit
against the people that discredited him -- the team of BBC's
Panorama show," Karaivanov said.

The BBC, which aired the program in Britain in August, didn't
immediately comment.

The 64-year old Slavkov, who has led the national Olympic
Committee since 1982 and became an IOC member in 1987, denied any
wrongdoing. He said he played along to expose what he thought was a
real attempt to corrupt the process -- a defense rejected by the IOC
ethics panel.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.