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Soccer crowds disappointing at Citrus Bowl

Although venue manager Tim Ramsberger said he heard nothing but praise for the organizational job here and the condition of the Florida Citrus Bowl field, he was disappointed by the crowd.

Announced attendance for the week was 127,524 or an average of 21,254. That was about what satellite venues of Annapolis and Harvard saw for men's soccer in the 1984 Games. But Orlando was far below the other preliminary-round sites of Miami (150,052), Washington (222,651) and Birmingham, Ala. (244,337).

"The organizers (here) did such a good job; we were like a sports car only driven 20 mph," said Ramsberger, a St. Petersburg native. "We were capable of so much more. I just don't think it (the community) embraced the Olympics. Maybe the message wasn't carried that well or just wasn't received."

Orlando needed to sell about 130,000 tickets to cover the expenses for the event, projected to cost about $4-million. The city and Orange County pledged to underwrite any losses up to $1-million with tourist-tax dollars.

STRUG LIKELY OUT: Coach Bela Karolyi said Kerri Strug's left ankle hasn't healed enough from her last vault _ the one that capped America's first team gold in U.S. women's gymnastics and left her with two torn ligaments _ to compete in the event final Sunday.

Strug, however, still holds out hope of participating in the floor exercise final Monday. The event isn't as hard on her sprained left ankle as the vault, and she will have an extra day of rest. A final decision will be made after a workout Sunday.

Friday, Strug walked through the team's private residence without crutches but wearing a light cast.

REASON TO CELEBRATE: Ecuador exploded with joy after race walker Jefferson Perez won the country's first Olympic gold medal.

Perez, the reigning Pan American champion, raced home in the last kilometer to win the men's 20K walk.

The government declared him "a national sporting hero" and radio and television cut into regular programs to announce the victory.

Crowds flooded from their homes and offices to celebrate in an impromptu street party and a cacophony of car horns sounded across the capital.

GOLF STILL POSSIBLE: Greg Norman playing in the Olympics?

After an aborted bid to add golf to the Olympics in Atlanta, the International Olympic Committee isn't ruling out the sport for the 2000 Summer Games in Norman's native Australia.

"Golf could be considered," IOC sports director Gilbert Felli said. "The chance is slim, but if we get a request from Sydney and the federation, we would discuss it."

Norman could be instrumental in helping get golf approved as an Olympic sport. Spanish star Seve Ballesteros met recently with IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to urge the inclusion of golf in the Olympics.

Atlanta organizing committee chief Billy Payne wanted to include golf in the 1996 Games and stage the competition at Augusta National, home of the Masters. But the plan collapsed over criticism of the club's history of excluding blacks and women.

ARRESTS: Australian tennis star Todd Woodbridge was arrested and fined $100 after an altercation with a female security guard near the athletes' village, police and Olympic officials said.

Woodbridge, one of the world's top doubles players, pleaded no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct after the incident early Wednesday morning at the North Avenue gate of the village.

Five Armenian wrestlers were arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute. Two fencers from Spain were arrested on charges they urinated in public.

CROWD PLEASER: Crowds have been flocking to see the U.S. baseball team at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, home of the World Series champion Braves. The gathering of 52,384 for the Americans' 15-5 win over Japan on Thursday was larger than the Braves have had all season.

INJURY REPORT: Australian middleweight Justann Crawford was taken to hospital for observation after being punched on on the back of the head while on the ropes by Russian Alexander Lebziak.

_ BRIAN LANDMAN, TIMES WIRES

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