US names Sochi delegation
Former US Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano is to lead the US delegation to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia. The White House said tennis champion Billie Jean King and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul would join the delegation. So would figure skater Brian Boitano and presidential adviser Rob Nabors. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is to lead the closing ceremony delegation. He is to be joined by McFaul, Olympic medal-winners Bonnie Blair, a speed skater; Caitlin Cahow, an ice hockey player; and Eric Heiden, a speed skater. The list contains openly gay athletes, including King. Gay rights groups have urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to use the delegation selection to make a point about Russia’s treatment of gays and lesbians.
Prior may get the boot
England coach Andy Flower is considering key changes for the fourth Test against Australia in Melbourne, with underperforming wicketkeeper Matt Prior among those under scrutiny. Flower said yesterday he would contemplate replacing Prior with 24-year-old Jonny Bairstow, who has averaged 30.2 from 12 Tests. Australia reclaimed the Ashes in emphatic fashion on Tuesday with a third straight Test victory on home soil and can leapfrog England into third place behind South Africa and India in the Test rankings if they complete a 5-0 series sweep.
UEFA sanctions two teams
Olympiakos and Zenit St Petersburg are to play their Champions League round-of-16 home games in partially closed stadiums because of racist behavior by their fans, UEFA said on Tuesday. The Greek side will have to close the lower tier of the north stand of their stadium in their first-leg match against Manchester United on Feb. 25 and have also been fined 30,000 euros (US$41,300). UEFA said the sanctions were imposed for “the racist conduct of supporters, insufficient organization, the setting-off of fireworks and the use of a laser” during their group-stage match at home to Anderlecht on Dec. 10. Zenit were sanctioned for incidents during their 4-1 defeat at Austria Vienna and will have to close the area of the stadium which usually houses their ultras when they host Borussia Dortmund, also on Feb. 25. UEFA said the Russian club had been punished for “the racist behavior of fans — namely the displaying of a banner — the setting-off and throwing of fireworks and crowd disturbances.”
Lippi slams referee
The vanishing spray used by referees to stop defensive walls creeping forward at free-kicks will only work if they measure the distance correctly, Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi said on Tuesday. The former Italy and Juventus coach complained that the referee had made his team’s defensive wall move back “15 meters” at Bayern Munich free-kicks during Tuesday’s Club World Cup semi-final, which the European champions won 3-0. The proper distance should be 9.15m. The spray, being deployed for the first time at a senior FIFA tournament, was developed in Brazil and Argentina, where it has been used for several years. Referees carry a small canister and spray a line on the pitch to mark the place the defensive wall should stand after pacing the 9m. Its proponents say it prevents arguments over where the wall should be.