Queen misses inauguration
Queen Elizabeth II pulled out of the official opening of Arsenal's Emirates stadium in London on Thursday because of a strained back muscle. The ceremony was instead performed by her husband, Prince Philip. Buckingham Palace said that doctors advised the 80-year-old queen to reduce her workload. A spokeswoman said she picked up the injury during her annual stay at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Before unveiling a plaque that said the queen had opened the stadium, Prince Philip walked onto the field and was introduced to the Arsenal squad. The queen has also pulled out of an appearance at a charity horse racing event at Newmarket race course in eastern England. She was, however, still planning to attend a luncheon in honor of her 80th birthday year at the Jockey Club at Newmarket yesterday.
Blackmailer sent to jail
A man who pleaded guilty to attempting to blackmail Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony for millions of dollars was sentenced to 18 months to three years in prison on Thursday. Santos Joubert pleaded guilty in June last year to third-degree attempted grand larceny. He and three other men who pleaded guilty in the case were accused of trying to use a videotape of a nightclub fistfight to blackmail Anthony. Joubert and the others were arrested in November 2004 at a meeting with an undercover police officer at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan for what they believed would be a US$1.25 million payoff.
Alleged slurs spark tiff
Houston center Dikembe Mutombo got into it with a fan who allegedly yelled racist slurs at him during the Rockets' NBA preseason loss to the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday. Mutombo yelled at the man and gestured back. The fan was ejected. No action was taken against Congo-born Mutombo. "I am not going to take that. He was insulting my race, my family, my integrity. For him to call me a monkey ... that should not happen today," Mutombo said. "If I get fined, I will go straight into the stands the next time," he said. Magic spokesman Joel Glass said the matter was turned over to NBA security.
Hertha Berlin win ruling
Hertha Berlin were on Thursday confirmed winners of their abandoned German Cup tie against Stuttgart Kickers. With just four minutes of Wednesday's game remaining the referee, Michael Weiner, ordered the teams to leave the pitch after his assistant Kai Voss was stretchered off injured by an object thrown from the crowd. Hertha were leading the cup tie over their second division rivals 2-0 following goals from Solomon Okoronkwo and Yildiray Basturk. Stuttgart, who can expect a hefty fine, say they won't be appealing the ruling by the German Soccer Federation. Police in Stuttgart have questioned a 38-year-old man in connection with the incident.
Big Unit's surgery `went fine'
New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back on Thursday. Dr Michael Watkins operated on the Big Unit in Los Angeles. Watkins also operated on Johnson's back 10 years ago. "The surgery went fine. The doctor said he was thrilled," Johnson's agent Barry Meister said. "Randy will return home to Phoenix tomorrow," he added.
Mijailovic banned over slur
Wisla Krakow defender Nikola Mijailovic was banned for five games by UEFA on Thursday for racially abusing Blackburn Rovers' black South African striker Benni McCarthy. Rovers reported Mijailovic after their 2-1 UEFA Cup victory in Krakow on Oct. 19. The incident was investigated by UEFA's control and disciplinary body. Announcing the ban, the UEFA disciplinary body said racism not only constituted a serious breach of the fair play principle, but also presented a serious threat to sport and its ethical values. Mijailovic, who will be banned for five UEFA club competition matches, has until midnight on Monday to appeal against the decision.
Bucks' Bogut doing well
Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut is ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation of a lower left leg sprain that originally was expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks. "His progress is probably better than we anticipated," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said on Thursday. "But beyond that, I don't know." Stotts said he expects to know more about a revised timeline for Bogut's return next week. The Australian returned to the court in practice this week, but only to shoot a few baskets. Bogut, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's NBA draft, was helped off the court after banging his leg into Steve Blake's knee during a team practice on Oct. 7.
Sociedad fire Bakero
Real Sociedad fired coach Jose Maria Bakero on Thursday after its worst-ever start to a season. Under Bakero, who took charge in March in the twin roles of coach and sports director, Sociedad dropped to last place with only two points from its first seven games of the season. On Wednesday, the Basque team crashed to a 4-1 defeat at second-division Malaga in the Copa del Rey. Bakero, a former Spain international midfielder who played for Sociedad and FC Barcelona in the 1980s and '90s, is the first coach to leave a Spanish first-division side this season. Sociedad, which has been in the top division since 1967 and won the Spanish league in 1981 and 82, said yesterday it would hold a news conference at which it is expected to name Bakero's replacement.
■ Rugby Union
Qualifying venue switched
The International Rugby Board has decided to drop Colombo as host for the final Asian qualifying round for next year's World Cup because of concerns about security. The IRB informed the Japan Rugby Football Union early yesterday that it was changing the venue but had yet to decide on a new host city for the Nov. 19-25 qualifying round. Japan will play Hong Kong in the opening match on Nov. 19, followed by South Korea vs. Hong Kong on Nov. 21 and Japan vs. South Korea on Nov. 25 in the three-team round robin event. The top team will qualify directly for a place at the World Cup in France, with the second-place team going into a playoff.