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Olympic torch returns to Greece after tour of cities around the world

IRAKLION, Greece (CP) - The Olympic torch returned to Greece on Friday following an unprecedented global journey, greeted by folk dancers for the final leg of the relay past the sites of monuments, and epic battles.

A chartered jet, named Zeus and flying a Greek flag, landed in the southern island of Crete and was welcomed in the city of Iraklion, one of four sites outside Athens that will host Olympic soccer matches.

Olympics showcase Athens' difficult century and dreams for new identity

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ATHENS (AP) - On a map, Athens is unquestionably a European metropolis. Even the name of the continent comes from Greek mythology.

But attitudes, insecurities and history offer a blurrier picture about this ancient city's place in the world - rooted in the West through political alliances, yet still influenced by its neighbour to the east.

After unprecedented security efforts, Athens crosses its fingers

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ATHENS (CP) - Giorgos Voulgarakis knows Greece faces a daunting task: protecting thousands of athletes and millions of spectators at the Summer Games from an unprecedented range of domestic and international threats.

Olympic venues must be secured. Tourist sites such as the Acropolis must be safeguarded. Trains and buses are possible targets, as are Athens' countless sidewalk cafes.

Being an Olympic swimmer means long hours in the pool, spending big bucks

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TORONTO (CP) - So you want to be an Olympic swimmer?

Get ready for early morning practices, spending four to five hours a day in the pool, dryland training, watching your diet and having little or no social life. It's being up at 5:30 a.m. and back to bed at 10 p.m. Forget about watching David Letterman at night. You might be out of town at a swim meet the weekend of your high school graduation or the day your best friend gets married.

Armed U.S. guards to protect American athletes on Crete before Olympics

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ATHENS (AP) - Armed U.S. agents will watch over American athletes during a pre-Olympic training camp that will include most of the country's team, The Associated Press has learned.

Allowing the armed escorts on the southern Greek island of Crete could indicate an easing of Greece's Olympic security policies, which allow only domestic forces to carry weapons.

Australian Olympic committee withholds cyclist Dajka's Athens nomination

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SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - The Australian Olympic Committee said Friday it was ``currently withholding'' cyclist Jobie Dajka's selection for the Athens Games because of an ongoing doping probe.

An Australian Olympic Committee statement said the 2001 world keirin champion's final selection was conditional on a continuing Australian Sports Commission and Cycling Australia investigation into alleged doping violations.

Wildfires near Athens trouble Greek authorities ahead of Olympics

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Forest fires burned near Athens for a fourth straight day Friday, as flames threatened homes and a pharmaceutical factory.

Firefighters battled blazes in Oinofita, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Athens, in the central Greek Fthiotida region, and near the southern seaside town of Aegio. The government's Civil Defense Agency has issued fire warnings for greater Athens over the next two days, with scorching temperatures and gale force winds expected.

Limpert, Malar both fail to qualify for Olympics in 200-metre IM

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TORONTO (CP) - When the cheering died there was an agonizing silence as reality replaced expectations.

After an extremely close race Marianne Limpert and Joanne Malar were both stunned when they looked at the clock to discover neither had swam fast enough in the 200-metre individual medley Thursday night to qualify for this summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

Macrozonaris speaks up for athletes angry about qualifying standards

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VICTORIA (CP) - Star sprinter Nicolas Macrozonaris lashed out Thursday against tough Olympic qualifying standards for Canadian track athletes.

"In 2000, that was where I broke out of my eggshell. I ran 10.18 that day, and I qualified," the 23-year-old from Laval, Que., said at a news conference in advance of this weekend's Canadian Olympic track and field trials. "Three years later, I was able to go to Mexico and beat Tim Montgomery, the world record-holder.

Report: Marion Jones' former husband testifies before BALCO grand jury

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The ex-husband of sprinter Marion Jones appeared before the grand jury in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case on Thursday, a day before the three-time Olympic champion begins her quest to qualify for the Athens Games, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The newspaper said C. J. Hunter refused to comment when asked why he was outside a San Francisco courthouse, but that his lawyer, Angela De Ment, said she and Hunter flew in from North Carolina as part of their co-operation with authorities.

Canada on fast track for Athens with new space-aged uniforms

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VICTORIA (CP) - It's a long way from the French Alps to Victoria's Centennial Stadium, but a common thread connects the two locales.

Canada's Olympic track team's newest uniforms were unveiled Thursday, and the Nike Swift Suit uses the same cutting-edge, aerodynamic materials and design that American cyclist Lance Armstrong is wearing in his assault on the record books at the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong says he will skip Athens Olympics after Tour de France

CHARTRES, France (AP) - Lance Armstrong is skipping the Athens Olympics, saying he needs to spend more time with his children.

Armstrong is bidding for a record sixth straight Tour de France title, but had planned to ride for the United States next month at the Summer Games. "I've thought a lot about this and the answer is, I shouldn't even say 'probably not,' I should say 'no,"' Armstrong said Thursday when asked about his plans following the Tour de France on July 25.

American swimmer Brendan Hansen sets world record in 100-metre breaststroke

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LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Brendan Hansen set a new world record in the 100-metre breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic swim trials on Thursday.

Hansen dominated the field with a time of 59.30 seconds. The expected duel with Ed Moses never materialized. The Sydney silver medallist missed a spot on the team by finishing sixth, nearly three seconds behind Hansen.

U.S. Track trials begin under steroid-tainted cloud

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The U.S. Olympic track and field trials, always a scene of high drama and breathtaking triumph, begin Friday under a steroid-tainted cloud.

Maurice Greene - the Olympic champion at 100 metres, four-time world champion and self-proclaimed greatest sprinter ever - knows the drug scandal is an unavoidable topic, but he hopes performances can still shine through. Four years ago, Greene felt the intense hype surrounding his 200-metre showdown with Michael Johnson, an event that fizzled when both runners pulled up with injuries in the final.

Firefighters battle Athens blazes near Olympic sites, summer camps evacuated

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ATHENS (AP) - Wildfires near Athens destroyed more than a dozen homes, forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 children from summer camps and alerted authorities near an Olympic site on Thursday.

Hundreds of firefighters and army conscripts, aided by planes and helicopters, were deployed at several sites, some burning for three days. Fires remained out of control at Anavissos, some 50 kilometres southeast of Athens and at two other sites outside the city.

Report: Olympic chances for one Australian cyclist in doubt

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SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Former world cycling champion Jobie Dajka may be pulled from Australia's Olympic team for Athens because he lied to an inquiry into drug use in cycling, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday.

The Herald reported that the inquiry, headed by former judge Robert Anderson, did not clear Dajka because of his relationship with former teammate Mark French, who has admitted to taking banned drugs, and because of unsatisfactory answers to some questions.

IOC would give hearings to U.S. relay team in 2000 doping case

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LONDON (AP) - Michael Johnson can argue to keep his 2000 Olympic relay gold medal if track's governing body disqualifies the entire team for a doping offence by Jerome Young.

The International Association of Athletics Federations is considering whether Young and the rest of the U.S. 1,600-metre relay squad should be stripped of the gold from the Sydney Games.

American shot putters speak out on athletes accused of doping

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - U.S. shot putter Adam Nelson knows people might think he is on drugs when he steps into the ring.

After all, he is a burly 225-pound guy who screams every time he releases the shot. "No matter what all of us do, because we are big boys with thick necks and scream and make a lot of noise out there when we compete, there's always going to be someone saying those are the dirty guys, look at them, they're big," Nelson said Thursday, on the eve of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
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