News & Notes

Brazil Isn't Amused by 'Congo' Joke

USOC worker Kevin Neuendorf mans the committee's media center in Rio de Janeiro, where an unidentified employee's message sparked controversy.
USOC worker Kevin Neuendorf mans the committee's media center in Rio de Janeiro, where an unidentified employee's message sparked controversy. (By Ivo Gonzalez -- Associated Press)
Sunday, July 8, 2007

In a joke that made Brazilians cringe and forced the U.S. Olympic Committee to apologize, a USOC worker scrawled "Welcome to the Congo!" on a board in the organization's Rio de Janeiro media center for the Pan American Games.

Rio's O Globo newspaper published a photo of the message on its front page yesterday, and ran a headline saying the joke was "full of prejudice." The message was condemned in a nation extremely sensitive about being compared to less-developed countries, especially by Americans -- often perceived as arrogant by Brazilians.

The controversy occurred as U.S. athletes arrived in Latin America's largest country to compete in the event that starts Friday.

The USOC issued a "deep apology to the people of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro" in a statement yesterday, and said the worker who wrote the phrase is no longer a member of the U.S. delegation. The statement did not name the employee. . . .

Jose Jimenez, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, was one of two Dominican athletes removed from the Pan American Games after they tested positive for banned substances. . . .

U.S. member Anita DeFrantz finished a distant last in an election for a seat on the 15-member International Olympic Committee executive board, a result she viewed as another sign of global anti-American sentiment.

"We unfortunately are still in the least-favored nation status," she said. "There is still a lot of work we have to do."

ยท AUTO RACING: Helio Castroneves won his third straight pole at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International during the Firestone Fast Six, a 10-minute showdown among the half-dozen fastest drivers in single-lap qualifying for today's Watkins Glen Grand Prix. . . .

Sebastien Bourdais, aiming for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Champ Car title, grabbed the pole for today's Grand Prix of Toronto by edging Justin Wilson with less than 10 seconds left in the final qualifying session.


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