Samaranch ready for wild cards

Juan Antonio Samaranch said yesterday that theInternational Olympic Committee would be sympathetic to the idea of issuing wild cards to notable athletes who are notselected for their country's Olympic squads.

Juan Antonio Samaranch said yesterday that theInternational Olympic Committee would be sympathetic to the idea of issuing wild cards to notable athletes who are notselected for their country's Olympic squads.

The world record holders Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene failed to make the American 200 metres team last week after suffering hamstring injuries in Olympic selection trials, although they will compete in other events.

"The wild cards are not the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee." said Samaranch. "It must be a request coming from the IAAF [International Amateur Athletic Federation]. If the IAAF makes this request, I think the IOC is ready to study this request in a positive way."

The IOC cleared the way yesterday for athletes from the two Koreas to march together at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Games in a powerful symbol of the divided peninsula's hopes for reunification.

The IOC executive board accepted a proposal by the North Koreans to drop the two national flags from the ceremony, leaving the athletes to parade as one under the Olympic flag only. It will be the first time the two Koreas have marched together at the Olympics. The athletes will continue to compete during the Games for theirrespective nations, with their own flags and anthems.

The Sydney Olympics minister, Michael Knight, said that Peking has a strong bid for the 2008 Games and Australia would be willing to help if China won. Peking narrowly lost out to Sydney in the 1993 biddingto host the 2000 Olympics amid concerns over China's human rights record.

"Peking has an excellent bid for the 2008 Games and I have no doubt if they are lucky enough to be selected by the IOC then Peking would host an excellent Games," he said.

"I'm impressed with the efforts they're making at a national level to clamp down on any efforts by individual competitors or coaches to cheat and we are doing the same in Sydney and we're working together in that process."

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