Track's Amy Acuff is on the cover of Playboy. Swimming's Haley Cope is in the pages. The decision could have created a bit of an uproar. Not for Cope.

"Most of us have done a lot of magazines," Cope said yesterday. "They were by far the most respectful and tasteful."

Uh, Playboy, right? Indeed, Cope said. More tasteful than Maxim, which also featured Olympians. More than FHM, which did the same. So tasteful, in fact, Cope said the technicians on the set of the photo shoot had to turn their backs.

Hmmm. Cope might be right. Those Maxims and FHMs that leer at you from the airport stands seem to always involve a swimsuit being tugged astray. Playboy doesn't tease. (Not that we've seen the pictures. We swear.) Isn't that more tasteful?

"I know it sounds lame," Cope said. "But it was really artistic."

Ah, yes, art. The pictures are (probably) quite tame compared to the sex-in-the-water display at the Opening Ceremonies a week ago. Still, Cope said she has read criticism of the shots -- including one article that said they set Title IX back 20 years. Gimme a break, she said.

"It's a woman's decision," she said. "I'm proud of it."

But what about her husband, whom she married in 2002?

"He's torn between wanting to hide me from the rest of the world," Cope said, "and being proud of what he's married. . . . It's nothing he doesn't see all the time. It's not so exciting to him."

-- Barry Svrluga

Taking License

The main arteries leading to the Olympic Complex are lined with car dealerships of every imaginable sort: Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Saab, Volkswagen, Mazda, Audi, Volvo and Toyota. Here's one reason: Traffic congestion had gotten so bad in Athens that government officials passed a law to deal with the problem. Only cars with license plates that end with even numbers may be on the streets one day; cars with odd-numbered plates may be driven the next. The famously creative Athenians have responded by buying two cars -- one to cover every day of the week.

-- Liz Clarke

Hall Ready to Rumble

Gary Hall Jr. wasn't 24 hours removed from his victory in the 50-meter freestyle yesterday. Time to celebrate, right?

"Anybody think they can beat me?" Hall said. "I'm issuing a challenge, right now. I'm opening it up to everybody in the world. Try."

Hall, who stormed into the Olympic Aquatic Center in an Everlast boxing robe Friday night, envisions swimming as boxing, one-on-one, mano a mano, tit-for-tat, back and forth, yadda yadda yadda. Enough of the politics, he says. If someone disagrees with his standing as the fastest man in the world -- bring it on.

As a matter of fact, if American Brendan Hansen wants another chance at Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, he should have it. If Ian Crocker and Michael Phelps want to square off again, Hall's waiting.

"I'll set it up," he said.

He will leave Athens on Wednesday for Dubai, where he will seek to secure funding for such events. He is meeting this morning with representatives for Australian Ian Thorpe, trying to enlist his help. Swimming as entertainment, as show. Hall's challenge is officially issued. Anyone out there?

-- Barry Svrluga

U.S. Olympian Amy Acuff is featured in the pages of FHM and the cover of Playboy.