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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ancient Olympic Chariot Racetrack Located?

As the Beijing Olympics draw near, archaeologists are reporting the discovery of the long-lost chariot race track at the Greek birthplace of the games. German researchers claim to have identified the hippodrome at Olympia, in Western Greece, some 1,600 years after the historic sports venue disappeared under river mud.

The ancient circuit, where Olympic competitors raced in chariots or on horseback, was found in May by a team including Norbert Müller of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Müller, a sports historian, declared the find "an archaeological sensation."

Researchers located the site using geomagnetic technology, a method that allows archaeologists to trace ancient structural features hidden beneath the soil.

Part of the oblong track's distinctive outline was documented some seven feet (two meters) beneath fields and olive groves and extended almost 656 feet (200 meters) in length.

East of the sanctuary of the Greek god Zeus, the track ran parallel to the stadium at Olympia where athletes performed, according to Müller and co-researcher Christian Wacker of the German Sports and Olympic Museum in Köln (Cologne), Germany.

Outlines of walls or ramparts were highlighted, "which can be most clearly connected with the ancient hippodrome," the researchers said in a statement.

The findings provide the "first clear indications" of the hippodrome's location, they added.

Ancient Mystery

The exact position of the hippodrome has long been a mystery, even though archaeologists have been excavating at Olympia since 1875.

Situated on the floodplain of the Alfeiós River, the site was buried under silt some 1,600 years ago.

No visible remains survive, but ancient texts suggest the circuit was some 3,444 feet (1,050 meters) long. Pausanias, a second-century travel writer, left a detailed account of the track, including its V-shaped starting stalls and their elaborate opening mechanism, as well as its sharp turns, marker posts, and altars.

A circle of stones measuring about 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter also was revealed by the soil survey, which may represent one of the structures Pausanias referred to, Müller said.

Slow Down

The German Archaeological Institute at Athens, which was also involved in the research, is more cautious about the findings.

Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, the institute's director, cautioned that a direct link has not yet been identified between the recently discovered outlines and the ancient racecourse.

"It could be the hippodrome but I don't think we can say that the hippodrome is 'discovered,'" Niemeier said. "This really has to be confirmed by test excavations and so on."

But the research site is in the "right area" for the hippodrome based on historical evidence, Niemeier said.

Any excavations would first require the permission of Greek authorities, he added.

Hard to Find

Richard Woff of the British Museum in London described the difficulty of pinning down the hippodrome's precise location.

Woff, who isn't connected to the research, said the hippodrome's main structures were most likely its starting stalls and the central barrier that charioteers and riders raced around.

"Apart from that, there probably wasn't a lot to it," he said. "So not only was it buried by silt, there's also the fact that there wasn't much to bury."

The hippodrome events were the most prestigious at the ancient Games, which were under way by 776 B.C.

"The main reason for this was that only the wealthiest people could afford to enter the chariot and horse races," Woff said. "Horses were very much a status symbol in ancient Greece."

While paid professionals would have ridden the horses and chariots, the winning prize went to the owner, he said.

This gave women their only opportunity of claiming an Olympic title since they were barred from either competing in or watching the Games.

"There's evidence a woman did win at the Olympics by doing that," Woff said.

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Beijing manufactures its own scenery for Olympics

A billboard blocks the view to a construction site against the backdrop of a polluted skyline in Beijing, China Friday, May 2, 2008. Beijing is usually shrouded under a blanket of gray pollution. Beijing is usually shrouded under a blanket of gray pollution. As a cover-up during the Olympics, city officials have tried to add some color. But it's mostly artificial, shades of blue and green coming from enormous murals and posters, many showing off palm trees and blue skies erected like Hollywood sets to hide the reality of the Chinese capital.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
AP Photo: A billboard blocks the view to a construction site against the backdrop of a polluted...

BEIJING - Polluted Beijing is usually shrouded in gray, so for the Olympics, Beijing city officials have tried to add some color.

They have taken a dusty metropolis with thousands of cranes hovering over construction sites and sought to create an idealized Beijing. Enormous murals in shades of blue and green, many showing off towering palm trees and blue skies, rise like Hollywood backdrops to hide the reality of the Chinese capital.

Beijing Olympics emblems are often used to hide unfinished construction projects. Some of the make-believe scenes are pastoral, showing a path wandering through a tangle of trees, or rolling green hills that suggest a quaint village lies just out of view. The murals typically hide a bare concrete wall, an ugly hole in the ground or a building site.

Feel like a game of golf? One mural guides the urban viewer down a lush, green fairway complete with sand bunkers.

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Finally: NFL, NBC To Start Streaming Games Online

EliManningSuperBowlChamp.jpgThe networks' experiment with live sports on the Web continues; this time, with the most valuable league in US sports.

The National Football League and NBC U will announce a plan Monday to put Sunday night football games on the Web, the WSJ reports. The deal starts with the Sept. 4 season opener, and comes right after NBC will have streamed thousands of hours of the Olympic Games on the Web over 17 days in August.

NBC is eager to find new distribution to build audiences for the sports--especially those for which it has paid exhorbitant rights fees. The 2008 Olympics cost NBC U close to $900 million, but NBC paid $3.6 billion ($600 million a year) for their six-year broadcast deal with the NFL through 2011.

Unlike MLB, which streams all games on the Web, the NFL has taken a conservative approach to protect the $3.7 billion it reaps annually from its TV contracts. And this move, which only deals with national games (no local affiliates, advertisers and blackout rules to deal with) is still quite cautious:

The league and NBC say it is an experiment. They hope to prove they can lure new viewers and people who are already watching at home by adding interactive elements. Viewers will be able to choose from among at least four live camera angles and review statistics that update during the game, according to the league. The league and the network will share in ad sales.

NBC streamed the live TV feed on the Web for TIger Wood's battle with Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open with very little advertising because the TV ads were stripped out. That playoff gave NBC Sports its best-ever day online with 9.1 million page views. For the Beijing Olympics, NBC is selling 15- and 30-second pre- and mid-roll ads

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NBA files for rights to 6 nicknames

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The NBA has filed for trademark rights to six nicknames for the league's new Oklahoma City franchise: Barons, Bison, Energy, Marshalls, Thunder and Wind.

An attorney for the league made the filing Monday with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Marshal is usually spelled with one l. It's not clear why the league used a variant spelling.

The filing is listed on the patent office's Web site.

The NBA and the team have refused to discuss possible new names for the team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics ahead of an official announcement, which has not yet been scheduled.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Everybody looks likes someone sometimes…

by Lang Whitaker

Since we now know that ESPN the Magazine isn’t above jacking an idea without giving any credit, I suppose I should do the same to them. But I won’t.

I saw a link the other day to something on ESPN the Mag’s website which was billed as a list of all the celebrity/athlete lookalikes in sports, and I was pretty disappointed by their brevity as well as lack of creativity. Heck, we’ve been doing just NBA/celebrity lookalikes for nearly 7 years on The Links, and I was almost certain I could come up with more on my own.

Then I started thinking about it and realized that someone needs to create the world’s most comprehensive list of NBA lookalikes. So I’m going to run the list of all the lookalikes I can come up with, and you guys feel free to supplement the list in the comments section with your own observations. And for the record, I’m only using current players, coaches and refs.

Anyway, here are ones we’ve done on SLAMonline over the last 8 years. Some of them were mine, some came from the SLAM staff, and a lot came from you guys. Any photos used in this post were made over the last seven years, either by me or you guys. (Oh, and by the way NBA Friday — Fri-day! Yes! — will pick back up next week.)

And away we go…remember, don’t forget to add your lookalikes in the comments below…

Gilbert Arenas (self-portrait from adidas ad) — Junk Yard Dog

Mike Bibby — Dr. Evil/Mini Me

Steve Blake — Gummo (main character from the movie)

Andrew Bogut — Ashlee Simpson (pre-surgery)

Bruce Bowen — Droopy Dog

Kwame Brown — guy from movie “The Air Up There”

Mike Brown — The Grimace

PJ Brown — Willem Dafoe

Andrew Bynum — Tracy Morgan

Rick Carlisle — Anthony Perkins (Psycho)

Sam Cassell — ET; Gollum

Nick Collison — Sam Rubenstein

Danny Crawford (ref) — Kwesi Mfume

Mark Cuban — Joaquin Phoenix; Elephant Boy from The Howard Stern Show

Baron Davis — Kanye West

Big Baby Davis — Fat Albert

Michael Finley — Billy Ocean

Kevin Garnett — Heidi from “The Apprentice” season one

Devean George — The Grinch; the Chicago Bulls logo

Manu Ginobili — Rick Reilly, Balki from Perfect Strangers

Drew Gooden — New Orleans’ mayor Ray Nagin

Rip Hamilton (with braids) — Jar Jar Binks

Del Harris — Leslie Nielsen

Walter Herrmann — Fabio

Robert Horry — Will Smith

Bobby Jackson — Don Cheadle

Phil Jackson — Gandalf from Lord Of The Rings

Anthony Johnson — Wyclef Jean

Chris Kaman — guy from “Children Of The Corn”

Kyle Korver — Ashton Kutcher

Jason Kidd — Vin Diesel; MLB infielder Keith Lockhart

Tyron Lue (with hair) — Li’l Bow Wow (when he was younger)

Corey Maggette — Xzibit

Donyell Marshall — Ludacris

Andre Miller — Richard Pryor

Mike Miller (long hair) — Hilary Swank

Mike Miller (short hair) — Steve O

Reggie Miller — dude from Star Trek

Cat Mobley — Method Man

Adam Morrison — Tina Fey

Steve Nash — Gabriel Batistuta; Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears

Don Nelson — John Madden

Nene (with hair) — Jules from Pulp Fiction

Joakim Noah — Bizzie Bone

Jim O’Brien — Reed Richards (Fantastic Four)

Emeka Okafor — Taye Diggs

Paul Pierce — Beetlejuice

Gregg Popovich — James Woods

Ahmad Rashad — Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons

Zach Randolph — The son from Family Matters

Nate Robinson — 50 Cent

Brian Scalabrine — Michael Rapaport

Wally Szczerbiak — Zoolander

Robert Swift — Freddy Krueger

Sebastian Telfair — Bucky from Fat Albert

Kurt Thomas — R. Kelly

Hedo Turkoglu — Alfred E. Newman

Jeff Van Gundy — Gonzo from The Muppets

Stan Van Gundy — Ron Jeremy

Anderson Varejao — Sideshow Bob

Ben Wallace (with hair out) — Fredrick Douglass

Bonzi Wells — Jay-Z

Shelden Williams — Mena Suvari

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Nuggets sign forward/center Chris Andersen

DENVER (AP) -The Denver Nuggets brought back Chris Andersen, signing the frontcourt player known as "Birdman'' on Thursday.

Andersen was reinstated by the NBA in early March after being kicked out on Jan. 27, 2006, for violating the league's drug policy.

The 6-foot-10, 228-pound Andersen played in five games for the New Orleans Hornets last season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds a game.

He is a high-energy player, something the Nuggets could use after losing Eduardo Najera to free agency and trading center Marcus Camby to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Andersen began his career with the Nuggets after being called up from the NBA Development League in 2001. He played three seasons for Denver before bolting for New Orleans.

While with New Orleans during the 2005-06 season, Andersen averaged 5 points a game, before becoming the first player thrown out for drugs since Stanley Roberts in 1999.

The NBA and the players' union aren't allowed to comment on the specifics of a drug test, but according to the collective bargaining agreement, a player can only be disqualified for a fourth positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, or a first positive test for "drugs of abuse.''

Andersen had not previously been suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The drugs on the "drugs of abuse'' list are amphetamines and its analogs, which include methamphetamine; cocaine; LSD; opiates, including heroin, codeine and morphine; and PCP.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Charles Barkley tips well, pays busboy's tuition to Temple

Not sure how BDL missed this story yesterday — oh, that's right, we were busy setting the unofficial NBA marathon live chat record — but hey, better late than never.

Charles Barkley is giving his money away again. No, no, no, don't judge! This time, instead of feeding quarters into some slot machine or doubling-down on 14 at the blackjack table, Barkley's picked up the tuition for a busboy at a restaurant in Philly. From the Philadelphia Daily News:

"Sir Charles told [Christian] Abate he would like to help him with his tuition, and Abate wasn't sure how to respond. Barkley didn't give him much time, telling Abate that he had the length of Barkley's meal to decide. Abate wisely accepted.

"He's a nice kid," Barkley said of Abate on Friday. "He was working with kids, I loved that he wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to help him," Barkley told us by phone between stops on a flight to Reno where he was making a speech.

While the little-more-than-15% tip may seem particularly special, it's not so unusual for Sir Charles. In fact, the lovable goof has given at least $3 million to schools and education in his home state of Alabama. He's a giver, not a golfer.

As SportsByBrooks so eloquently put it, Barkley is just like Robin Hood: "He tries to take from the rich, but since he’s not very good at it, he gives to the poor out of his own pocket." So noble. Thump Bump, Chuck.

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Sasha Vujacic might leave Lakers to play in Europe

Lakers reserve guard Sasha Vujacic, a restricted free agent, is prepared to leave the team and accept an offer from a European team in the next few days if the Lakers don't make him an offer he deems fair, according to a source in the Vujacic camp who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

The source said Vujacic is seeking a multiyear deal from the Lakers averaging about $5 million a year. Vujacic was hoping for a six-year deal, but anticipated it could be a shorter contract.

Vujacic, who earned $1.76 million last season, was given a $2.6-million qualifying offer by the Lakers after the season to make him a restricted free agent.

He has not received an offer sheet from another NBA team. Teams were hesitant to make Vujacic an offer because they anticipate the Lakers would match it, the source said.

The Lakers made a qualifying offer to another of their free agents, forward Ronny Turiaf, but when Turiaf received a four-year, $17-million offer sheet from the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers declined to match it.

Because the Lakers are over the luxury tax, they would be assessed an amount equal to any sum they spend over it.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been negotiating with Vujacic's agent, Rob Pelinka.

"We are very aware of the global market as it has changed over the years. It was our desire to bring Sasha and Ronny back. It continues to be our desire to bring Sasha back," Kupchak said Thursday after hearing of Vujacic's ultimatum. "However, with the ever-changing marketplace that Europe has become, a player, in order to cover his bases, can negotiate with his NBA team and, at the same time, have a plan that allows him to have the possibility of going overseas."

Jumping from the NBA to Europe has become a viable option for several players, the latest being Josh Childress, who Wednesday revealed that he is leaving the Atlanta Hawks to play for Olympiakos, a Greek club, for a three-year deal worth about $20 million after taxes.

The 24-year-old Vujacic, a native of Maribor, Slovenia, just completed his fourth and best season with the Lakers. Vujacic averaged 8.8 points in 17.8 minutes this past season, shooting 45.4% from the field, including 43.7% from three-point range. In the postseason, Vujacic averaged 21.7 minutes, 8.1 points and shot 39.9% from the floor, including 39.2% on three-pointers.

Kupchak, while refusing to discuss numbers, said of the negotiations with Pelinka, "It's our intention to have a happy ending."

Kupchak says he agrees that the situation should be resolved in the next few days.

"When the free agency period rolled around," he said, "Sasha needed to get a feel of what the market would be like. After 20-something days, he's had enough time to get a feel. It's time this came to a conclusion."

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