ROUNDUP : JOHNSON MOVES INTO PRIME TIME.
Television talks and the Olympics listen.
That's the way it seemed on Wednesday when, two days before the opening ceremony and 10 days before the beginning of track and field competition, organizers juggled the schedule of events to make sure NBC gets prime time access to sprinter Michael Johnson's races.
A spokesman for NBC, which paid $456 million in rights fees for these games, denied the network had applied pressure to get the schedule changed by the International Track and Field Federation.
``We have an ongoing relationship with the IAAF and all the other federations,'' spokesman Ed Markey said. ``One aspect of those relationships is constant dialogue aimed at enhancing both our presentation of the Olympics and the exposure for their sports to American audiences.
``We talk to everybody all the time, constantly looking for ways to put the most dramatic events in front of the largest possible audience.''
NBC, which has committed $3.2 billion to the International Olympic Committee for the next 12 years, achieved that with Wednesday's changes. They assure the widest exposure for Johnson, who petitioned months ago to have the Olympic schedule arranged so that he could make an unprecedented run at both the 200- and 400-meter gold medals.
The entire evening track schedule on Saturday, July 27, including the second round of the men's 400, was set back one hour, moving Johnson's race from 6:55 p.m. EDT to 7:55 p.m. The same thing was done on Thursday, Aug. 1 with the 200 semifinals moved from 6:10 to 7:10 p.m. and the final changed from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Three events, including the 400 final, were flipped on Monday, July 29, with Johnson's race switched from the beginning of prime time at 7:55 p.m., to the end at 9:10 p.m.
Lifter out: Officials said European 183-pound champion Yuri Myshkovets was removed from the Russian Olympic team after testing positive for illegal performance-enhancers.
Myshkovets was caught using drugs at a training session and faces a six-month suspension, said Vladimir Maslyaev, a member of the Russian Weightlifting Federation and former senior coach of the weightlifting team.
Baumgartner chosen: Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic gold-medalist in freestyle wrestling, was chosen to carry the flag at the head of the U.S. team in the opening cermonies of the Atlanta Games. He'll also carry the momory of a slain teammate and friend.
Baumgartner, honored earlier this year with the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete, was chosen in a vote of captains from the various U.S. sports.
The captains also chose basketball player Theresa Edwards, like Baumgartner a four-time Olympian, to take the oath for all athlets during Friday's ceremonies.
Baumgartner said he was thrilled by his choice, but that he would share the moment of glory with thoughts of Dave Schultz, a long-time wrestling teammate who was shot to death under bizarre circumstances last January.
Looking ahead: Another American city is preparing to host the Olympics, and just like Atlanta, it will pay its bills without dipping into taxpayer pockets.
So Salt Lake City hopes it can learn some things as it gets ready for the Winter Olympics of 2002 - like how to avoid the criticism that the site of the Centennial Games is awash in billboards and street hawkers.
A day after top IOC officials criticized some of the bazaar that has sprung up around the Atlanta Games, Salt Lake City's Olympic organizers said they were aware of the problem and looking for solutions.
``Certainly the challenge any organizing committee has is to balance the needs of our corporate sponsors and suppliers and the other people who pay for the Games with the need to protect the dignity of the Games,'' said Tom Welch, president of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee.