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Dutch Florists Claim Bouquets Are the Pits

From News Services
Thursday, February 19, 1998; Page C6

Florists in the Netherlands aren't tossing bouquets at Nagano Olympics organizers.

Flower executives grumble that Dutch speedskaters, who dominated the awards podium Wednesday (Tuesday EST) with an unprecedented medals sweep in the men's 10,000 meters, aren't getting fitting floral tributes.

Gold medalist Gianni Romme, silver medalist Bob de Jong and bronze winner Rintje Ritsma got a small bunch of red, pink and yellow flowers bound with a pink ribbon.

"Those bouquets are poor. It's as simple as that," Warren de Vroe of the International Flower Bulb Center said.

De Vroe's organization, which represents hundreds of Dutch flower growers and exporters, had offered to provide bouquets to all medalists for free. The Japanese politely refused.

Dutch growers even developed a yellow and white "Nagano" tulip, but so far it has only been seen inside Holland House, a center for Dutch athletes and media at the Winter Olympics.

The heart of the matter, De Vroe conceded, might be a clash of East and West.

"The problem is that what they are doing, for Japanese standards, is out of this world," he said. "But the rest of the world sees a nasty little bunch of flowers."

Reporter Threatened
The reporter whose disclosure that Ulf Samuelsson carried an American passport and led to the Swedish defenseman being expelled from the Olympics has received threats from angry readers.

Svenska Dagbladet, a Stockholm newspaper, reported a steady stream of e-mail messages, faxes and telephoned threats directed at reporter Janne Bengtsson.

"People like you are the reason Sweden should reintroduce the death penalty," one message said. "Traitors like you should get a new passport!" was another example.

Per-Olof Olsson, Svenska Dagbladet's sports editor, told the national news agency TT that readers misunderstood the newspaper's role.

"We didn't go to Nagano to root for Sweden's hockey team or Sweden's competitors, but to offer our readers a good, comprehensive coverage," Olsson said. "I have spoken to Janne and I think he had a good reply. He said, 'I just did my job, others didn't do theirs.'"

Drug Ban Sought
Olympic leaders said Wednesday they were determined to push for "social" drugs such as marijuana to be banned despite fears that the initiative might hamper the progress of an important international campaign against doping.

Leading International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper said he supported a proposal by medical chief Prince Alexandre de Merode to put the drugs on the IOC's list of banned substances even though they are not performance-enhancing.

Some IOC officials believe the move threatens to hamper key talks this year between the IOC and sports federations about a new medical code aimed at introducing common bans for cheats. Some international federations are against marijuana bans.

But IOC Executive Board member Gosper said: "If we backed off because of opposition from international federations it would be a sign of weakness. Our job is to set a standard."

Another IOC official, unwilling to be identified, countered: "It could cause complications in harmonizing the rules.

"The number one goal of the new medical code should be to stop doping. We are against marijuana but it should not be on the list of prohibited substances as a doping agent."

De Merode made the proposal after Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's gold medal was taken away for failing a drug test, then restored by the Court for the Arbitration of Sports. That panel ruled that because there was no agreement regarding marijuana use between the skiing federation and the IOC, the medal could not be taken away.

Wild, Wild West
Organizers of the 2002 Winter Games plan to use a taste of the American West to spice up at least three sports.

Because the venue for cross-country, biathlon and Nordic combined events will be the only one in Utah's Wasatch County, the locals are eager to put on a good show. A herd of buffalo may be brought in to roam the venue, and plans are being made for a rodeo, Western-style cookouts and other festivities.

The Salt Lake Olympic Committee has earmarked $17 million for developing the site.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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