THE atmosphere has gotten pretty snippy between international Olympic officials and American politicians, who have come out publicly - in a congressional resolution - against Beijing's bid to host the Games in the year 2000.
The International Olympic Committee may eventually turn down Beijing's bid, in part because of China's poor human-rights record, but the IOC doesn't care to look like a US political pawn in the process. Furthermore, there are concerns that outside political interference might trigger a reaction of the kind that threatened the Olympic movement in the 1980s, when the US and Soviet Union took turns boycotting each other's Games - Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. Watching the company that NBA players keep
During the past season, the National Basketball Association pretty much shrugged off reports of Michael Jordan's alleged high-stakes recreational gambling. But no pro league can afford to back away from this issue. The league, says director of media relations Terry Lyons, has an active security department, with representatives (often former police officers and investigators) in each NBA city.
One of the league's chief concerns, Lyons says, are the associations the players may unwittingly make with shady characters, including those with criminal backgrounds or suspected criminal connections. The pitfalls are addressed in the NBA's rookie orientation program, in which Lyons says players are encouraged to scrutinize those who present them with business deals, want to invest their money, or engage them in a "friendly" game of golf. "Their antennae have to be up all the time," Lyons says.
Golf is a favorite pastime for many NBA players, including Jordan, who allegedly has been involved in some heavy wagering on the course. This sort of situation not only can have serious consequences for the player, it also may endanger the league by planting the suspicion of game-fixing under duress.
Nevertheless, Jordan seems unconcerned about the NBA's investigation into his golfing debts. "It ... will go away," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. Baseball's elusive .400 batting average
Baseball and personal history are stacked heavily against Toronto's John Olerud in his quest to bat .400 or better for the season. Since Ted Williams last achieved the feat in 1941, the closest any player has come to the mark was .390 by Kansas City's George Brett in 1980.
Brett's average dropped 10 points in the last weeks of that season, and Olerud's batting average has historically trailed off in September, when he has hit .258 compared to .336 in July, his traditional "hot" month.
The slide may have begun. Last week, in a key four-game series with the Yankees, Olerud was 3 for 15. Over the weekend, his .402 average continued to drop, and after Sunday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, it had reached .392. Touching other bases
* Hats off to sports columnist Mike Madden, who wrote in the Boston Globe last week how he passed up a hustler's offer of an easy $200. In Cooperstown, N.Y., for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction, Madden was approached after receiving his media credential by someone wanting to buy the commemorative pin issued to reporters. Because the pin marked the occasion of Reggie Jackson's solo induction - and Jackson has cachet as baseball's "Mr. October" - the pin could bring a pretty price in the memorab ilia market. Madden, however, was more interested in the pin's sentimental value and repulsed the hustler's tactless offer. Sadly, profiteers increasingly hover around such events.
* Pro football teams in the market for new a punter might want to consider converting United States national soccer team goalie Tony Meola. As part of a press conference in Chicago this summer, Meola punted a soccer ball 72 yards across the Chicago River. At the University of Virginia, he also played baseball and was drafted as a center fielder by the New York Yankees. He's presently occupied, though, in preparing for next summer's US-based World Cup tournament.