ROME, AUG. 28 -- The rivalry between American Carl Lewis and Canadian Ben Johnson will be featured Saturday when the men's 100-meter heats highlight the opening day of the second world track and field championships.
Although the first day of competition also includes the shot put, men's 10,000-meter and women's marathon finals, the 100-meter heats are the first set of races on the newly completed Olympic Stadium track.
The meet concludes Sept. 6, and NBC plans extensive coverage in the United States (4 p.m. Saturday).
This meet has become the preeminent track and field event in the world since its debut in 1983. Since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the only major international track and field competitions not hit by boycotts have been the International Amateur Athletic Federation's World Cup, held once every four years, and the 1983 championships. Both the Soviets and East Germans will be here, which should enhance the quality of events -- in particular, women's events.
Saturday's schedule also includes the opening two rounds of the women's 100 meters, the first round of the women's 400, the opening rounds of the men's and women's 800 and the first round of the women's 3,000. There also is qualifying for the men's javelin and women's high jump.
But the 100-meter event holds the spotlight.
"I think it will be a fast race and will probably go under 10 seconds," said Lewis, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist going for three gold medals here. "All I want to do is run my own race and stay on the track."
"I am feeling fine and ready to go," the Jamaican-born Johnson said. "I'm not under any pressure and, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter who I run against. And I would like to stress there is no animosity between Carl Lewis and me."
Johnson has been superb the last two years. He has twice run the 100 meters in 9.95 seconds -- the second being two weeks ago in Cologne, West Germany -- a time just three-hundredths of a second off Calvin Smith's world record set in 1983 at altitude, and two-hundredths faster than Lewis' best time.
Johnson finished third behind Lewis and American Sam Graddy at the 1984 Olympics, but has beaten Lewis in all four meetings the last two years.
Johnson says he is the world's top sprinter and it is up to Lewis to prove otherwise.
"It has been suggested that I deliberately snubbed his handshake when I beat him in Zurich last year, but that is not the case," Johnson said. "I will shake his hand any time. I fear no one. I am sure I am going to win -- but I am not sure who is going to come second."
Lewis and Johnson have met only once this season, May 28 at Seville, Spain. Johnson defeated Lewis by one-hundredth of a second.
In another development, U.S. hammer thrower Bill Green, who was stripped of his Pan American Games silver medal because of a positive drug test, will not be allowed to participate, his lawyer, Gregory Raifman, said.
Raifman said that he does not plan to appeal the decision. "The Games start tomorrow, so there's not much you can do," he said.
Green, 27, had his Pan Am medal taken away after he tested positive for excessive amounts of the male hormone testosterone.