Indoor track blooms in full color this weekend, giving East Coast fans the opportunity to see some of the gaudiest talent the sport has to offer in two meets in three days.

In New York on Friday night, many of the world's top performers return to Madison Square Garden to cement reputations or build new ones in the staid, button-down giant of the sport, the Millrose Games. The crowd is knowledgeable; the officials wear tuxedos. The meet has been around since 1907, and outside of the U.S. championships, is the oldest indoor meet in the country. All the trappings shout tradition and the athletes know that if they do nothing else, performing well in the Garden will mark them as among the best.

Sunday, the flashy youngster in the sport, the Mobil 1 Invitational at George Mason University, replete with a fast 200-meter track, has made it convenient for the best to slip down the coast for a quick and attractive one-two punch.

"Millrose is the legend and we're the new kid on the block, but we've come to the point that by itself Mobil is a very credible meet," said Mobil organizer John Cook.

What may not be so credible is the excuse given by Said Aouita, holder of five world distance records from 1,500 to 5,000 meters, for withdrawing from the Millrose and Mobil 1. Monday, Millrose organizer Howard Schmertz said Aouita cited illness incurred training in Mexico City. Yesterday, however, Schmertz said he heard differently by phone from the manager of Noureddine Morceli, top-ranked in the 1,500 last year, who was training with Aouita.

"It was said {Aouita wasn't going to run} because of the flu," Schmertz said, "but I spoke to Morceli's manager and he said Aouita just started training hard a week ago and is not in condition to run Millrose."

Nine indoor world record holders remain committed to Millrose, including Greg Foster, 60-meter hurdles; Lee McRae, 55 and 60 meters; Doina Melinte, Romania, 1,500 meters and mile; Thomas Scho nlebe, Germany, 400 meters; Javier Sotomayor, Cuba, high jump; Gwen Torrence, 55 meters, and Christine Wachtel, Germany, 800 meters.

Most of the top athletes will race again at Mobil -- which began as a small collegiate invitational 11 years ago. Also running will be Michael Johnson, top-ranked in the 200 and 400 meters. Poised to outdo all events, though, are the women's 800 and mile runs. The 800 features Joetta Clark, Wachtel, Gina Procaccio and Meredith Rainey. The mile pits Melinte against PattiSue Plumer, who ran the fastest mile ever by an American woman, 4:16.68, in September.

"It's more of a European meet, and it's eight laps to the mile, which is the way it should be run," said Cook. "And the athletes like it."