Russia apologises to Norwegian journalists held on Olympic trip

Norwegian broadcaster TV2, the country’s official games broadcaster, said its journalists Oeystein Bogen and Aage Aune had been questioned, detained and searched by police who claimed that one of them had been using drugs.

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Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters that local law enforcement officials abused their posts in the incidents last week, leading to “a series of unwarranted actions towards the citizens of Norway”.

“In this regard we apologise to Mr Bogen and Mr Aune. The current situation will undoubtedly be worked out in detail and those guilty will receive the corresponding punishment.

“We would like to assure you that the executive authorities of the Russian Federation will take all necessary measures to avoid the repetition of similar cases in the future,” it said.

Russia is spending more than $50 billion on preparations for the 2014 Games. President Vladimir Putin wants to use the Winter Olympics to show to the world a modern face of Russia more than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

A statement by Human Rights Watch said the journalists had been detained several times travelling in and out of the Sochi region, which borders the volatile North Caucasus.

One of them was forced to drive to a local drug clinic after officers claimed he might be on narcotics. This incident ended only when another officer arrived at the centre saying there had been a ‘misunderstanding’, HRW said.

Russia said that a technical mistake had provided false information about the journalists to law enforcement officials.

Russia ranks 148th out of 179 countries on the World Press Freedom index compiled by the journalist watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

(Reporting By Thomas Grove; editing by Ralph Boulton)


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Rio club has hit with Che Guevara shirt

Madureira, a third division team from Rio de Janeiro’s gritty north side, put Che’s famously bearded face on their seven-a-side shirts to commemorate a tour of the island they made 50 years ago.

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The goalkeeper’s jersey is designed exactly like the Cuban flag.

The new maroon outfield designs, featuring the shadow of the revolutionary’s image, have not yet been used in an official match, but they are already a huge hit with fans.

Sales have rocketed from the usual 10 a month to more than 3000 in the weeks since it was launched.

“The factory can’t keep up with demand,” Madureira’s president Elias Duba told Reuters.

“It’s taken on a whole life of its own.

“I wasn’t going to have the big team use them, but all the attention has convinced me otherwise.”

The club chose to honour Che, the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro to power in Cuba in 1959, after playing five games there in 1963. Che met the players at their hotel in Havana and was at the last game of their unbeaten tour, Duba said.

Madureira claims to have undertaken the longest overseas tour of all Brazilian clubs. In the 1950s and 1960s, Brazilian sides, including Pele’s Santos and Garrincha’s Botafogo, would regularly spend months abroad playing money-spinning friendlies.

In 1963 Madureira spent 144 days in countries as far flung as Japan and the United States, playing 36 games, and winning 23 of them.

The club is now talking to Cuban authorities in the hope it can return there for a pre-season tour in 2014. With their Che shirts.

“It’s really beautiful, one of the nicest shirts I’ve seen in a long time,” said goalkeeper Robertinho. “Even fans of other teams want to buy it.”


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Woods backs Mickelson move to cut heavy schedule

British Open champion Mickelson announced last week that he would be scaling down his appearances next year.

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The five-times major winner did not indicate which events he would miss but his comments suggested the U.S. PGA Tour’s money-spinning FedExCup playoff series might be on the chopping block.

“I don’t blame him (for cutting down), I don’t blame him at all,” world number one Woods told Reuters in an interview ahead of his participation in this week’s inaugural Turkish Airlines Open in the south western city of Antalya.

“I don’t know what he’s going to cut down, we have 15 tournaments as a minimum for voting membership (on the U.S. Tour).

“But I just think it’s important to be fresh, it’s important to be ready for the major championships, the World Golf Championships, the Players Championship,” added Woods.

The 14-times major winner said that even when the four majors are over for the season, players still have the FedExCup to support in August and September.

“With the FedExCup at the end of the year I can see where guys are taking breaks,” said Woods. “Some of the top Europeans are playing right now in this stretch through the Race to Dubai (finale) and then going down to South Africa.

“You need to find blocks of your time for your off season. Everybody has different times when they like to take the off season so you’ve just got to figure out what’s best for you.”

This week’s event in Turkey and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai that follows bring an end to the 2012-13 European Tour campaign.

However, no sooner does the curtain go down on one year than it almost immediately rises again to herald the start of the 2013-14 season with the South African Open in Gauteng on November 21.

STRICKER EXAMPLE

Woods cited U.S. Ryder Cup playing partner and world number seven Steve Stricker as the perfect example of a leading golfer who has derived tangible benefits from reducing his tournament appearances.

“Steve cut back his schedule this year and had his best year just because he felt he was more mentally fresh and I think that’s pretty important,” said the 37-year-old American.

“It’s tougher nowadays especially with our playoff system and with the European Tour and their playoff system (the Final Series) and their minimum number of events have increased.

“A guy has to play a lot more events around the world and it is very hard to stay fresh,” said Woods.

The world number one is pleased to be in Turkey for the penultimate tournament of his season before he bows out by hosting his own World Challenge event in California next month.

Woods said he was always interested to see new emerging golfing markets pop up around the world.

“I think the inclusion of golf in the 2016 Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro) has changed the dynamics of how we think about golf,” he explained.

“There are other countries that are now getting more involved. China for example has been unbelievable in what they have done in the last 12 years.

“The number of kids that have come through their programmes and you see a little kid like Guan (Tianlang) make it to the U.S. Masters at age 14 this year,” said Woods.

“That’s what is coming, that is the next wave of kids. Give them another 10, 20 years and you’re going to see certain countries start to dominate the game of golf.”

Woods begins his title challenge at the $7 million Turkish Open in the company of U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and European money-list leader Henrik Stenson in Thursday’s opening round at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course.

The trio tee-off at 1105 local time (0905 GMT).

(Editing by Ken Ferris)


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Bjorn can restore peace between Tour and players, says Rose

Last week former world number one Ernie Els described as “farcical” the rule that members must play in two of the three events leading up to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in order to be eligible for the last of the four Final Series tournaments.

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Els, who has been a member of the European circuit for almost two decades, said he would register his disapproval by skipping the $8 million (5 million pounds) season-ending event in Dubai.

Former U.S. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Ryder Cup stalwart Sergio Garcia have also said the regulations are asking too much of the players.

“This is the first time there has been this new system so I don’t think anything is set in stone,” world number five Rose told reporters on the eve of the inaugural $7 million Turkish Airlines Open being staged in the city of Antalya.

“Quite clearly the sweet spot has not been found. Thomas is a very good sounding board, I don’t want to call him the middle man but he acts really well between the players and the top executives of the tour.

“I think he has had quite a few conversations with guys in the last couple of weeks just to try and gauge where everybody’s head is at and to try and come up with a great solution.”

The Final Series, which consists of Turkey, Dubai and two big-money tournaments in Shanghai, is Europe’s equivalent of the U.S. PGA Tour’s lucrative FedExCup playoff system.

STRONG TOURNAMENTS

Rose, ever the diplomat, said he could see both sides of the argument between the tour and the players.

“You’ve got to try and play a schedule you feel is going to give you the best opportunity to play well when you want to play well and if that means pacing yourself, you pace yourself,” said the 33-year-old Briton.

“But I also understand the tour’s point of view in trying to incentivise guys and trying to create strong tournaments. They are asking sponsors to put up a lot of money and clearly they want a return on their investment.”

Rose is third in the European money-list with the two events to go, trailing leader Henrik Stenson by 325,000 euros ($436,600) and second-placed Graeme McDowell by 179,000 euros.

Swede Stenson, who picked up $11.4 million for winning the FedExCup and the season-ending U.S. Tour Championship, plays alongside Rose and world number one Tiger Woods in Thursday’s opening round but McDowell is an absentee this week.

First prize at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course in Belek is worth 848,930 euros and Rose said that emulating his 2007 order of merit triumph would represent the icing on the cake of a memorable season in which he won a major for the first time.

“Before I won the U.S. Open I would have said winning the order of merit was my career achievement and something I was very proud of,” said the Englishman.

“To have the opportunity to do it for the second time, in the modern era and in the new format, would be great.”

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)


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Davies happy with Wales preparation

Bradley Davies has no doubt that Wales’ preparations have been spot on for their latest attempt to floor a southern hemisphere heavyweight.

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Cardiff Blues lock Davies will make his first Wales appearance at the Millennium Stadium since last November when Rugby Championship runners-up South Africa provide the opposition on Saturday.

Wales’ coaching team and captain Sam Warburton have this week underlined the crucial importance of beginning to take major foreign scalps, something that has eluded them since 1999 (South Africa), 1953 (New Zealand) and 2008 (Australia).

That Wallabies win has so far proved the solitary success during more than 20 attempts in head coach Warren Gatland’s five-year reign, even though Wales have won three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final under the New Zealander’s direction.

Wales now have a first tilt at the Springboks since suffering an agonising 17-16 defeat against them in the World Cup pool phase two years ago, and 40 times-capped Davies is relishing the prospect.

“South Africa are going to challenge us front-on with their style of play,” said Davies, who has been recalled as Alun-Wyn Jones’ second-row partner after missing last season’s Six Nations because of an ankle injury.

“We prepared for it in training last week. Training was physical, and hopefully we can transfer it to Saturday’s game.

“I feel I am ready to run through brick walls, which is normally a good sign.”

Davies was on the bench when Wales lost to South Africa in Wellington, yet in many ways it was a performance of sufficient high quality to underpin their push towards the latter knockout stages.

“We were written off before that game, but we were well in it,” he added.

“Because of that match we turned the corner and the snowball effect gave us momentum to reach the semi-finals.

“I thought we played the better rugby, but at the end of the day history says we lost. There’s been a lot of games we have said we should have won over the last couple of years but we haven’t. We need to start turning those narrow losses into wins.”

Wales’ record against the leading southern hemisphere sides is a particularly poor one when compared with England’s during the professional era.

While Wales have consistently struggled to find a winning formula, England can reflect on a number of victories over the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies, including beating Australia five days ago despite not hitting top gear.

“England have shown the way, really,” Davies said.

“They were a bit rusty during the opening 20 minutes last weekend, but they stuck together and their physicality and fitness came through and they got the win.”


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