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Olympic flame begins journey

Torch relay runners delivered the Olympic flame to Sydney Games officials Saturday, as organizers tried to put scandal and a shaky start behind them.

The flame was handed over at the marble Pan Athenian stadium, venue of the first modern Olympiad in 1896, before being flown to Guam to embark on a giant island-hopping tour of Oceania for the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 games.

Senior Australian Olympic officials skipped the event amid continued embarrassment over the flame lighting ceremony at ancient Olympia 10 days ago.

IOC vice president Kevan Gosper of Australia was forced to apologize after facing intense criticism for allowing his daughter to replace another girl as the first Australian torchbearer.

Government officials were furious over a string of mishaps that included difficulty lighting the flame after a lengthy ceremony and a brass band that played out of tune.

"The ceremony was, to say the least, unacceptable," Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said last week. "How can we be expected to organize Olympic Games if we can't get the ceremony right."

Australian organizers say this year's torch relay will be the longest and most varied in Olympic history. The flame will travel by camel, down ski slopes and even underwater on a 14-nation tour of Oceania, which includes a 100-day journey across Australia.

MORE OLYMPICS: Nicole Freedman, who turns 28 today, won in a close finish over Pam Schuster and third-place Mina Pizzini in the U.S. cycling trials in Jackson, Miss. Each was timed in 2 hours, 38 minutes, 56 seconds on the relatively flat 64-mile course. Guenter Seidel got his first victory of the dressage trials with Foltaire, nosing out Sue Blinks on Flim Flam, who won both of last weekend's segments in Loxahatchee. The men's winner was Antonio Cruz (5:21.31 over 138 miles). Miami flyweight Juan Moreno, the two-time silver medalist, beat Jason Torres 2-0 to earn a spot on the U.S. tae kwon do team. Featherweight Steven Lopez also qualified, beating Glenn Lainfiesta 1-0. Kay Poe and Barbara Kunkel earned spots on the women's team.

BOXING: Tony Ayala Jr. continued his comeback after serving 16 years in prison for sexual assault, running his record to 5-0 with a second-round knockout of Gerald Coleman in Fort Worth, Texas. Michele Piccirillo retained his WBU welterweight title, outpointing challenger Walter Crucce in an unanimous decision in Piancavallo, Italy.

CYCLING: Italian star Marco Pantani admitted he's competing in the Giro d'Italia to prepare for the Tour of France. Pantani was banned from last year's Giro d'Italia that he was leading after failing a blood test. David McKenzie captured the seventh stage of the Giro in 4 hours, 38 minutes, 29 seconds.

RUNNING: Rosario Sanchez took the gold in the women's 10,000 meter, setting an Ibero American games record of 45 minutes, 38.9 seconds. Sanchez beat Geovanna Irusta (45:59.95) and Teresa Linares (46:36.86). Joseph Waweru won the Sydney half-marathon, finishing in 1:04:04. Heather Turland won the women's (1:17:26).

BASKETBALL: American Tyus Edney scored 29 points to lead Benetton Treviso to a 79-72 upset of PAF Bologna in the opening game in Italy.

HORSE RACING: Beautiful Pleasure, the Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, raced to a 6}-length victory in the $200,000 Grade II Shuvee Handicap for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. Western Ideal powered past favored Dragon Again and paced an older horse world record 1 minute, 48.3 seconds in the Graduate Final at the Meadowlands.

SOCCER: English sports officials took heart from the trouble-free FA Cup final. In the last final played at Wembley Stadium before it is demolished, Chelsea beat Aston Villa 1-0. Bayern Munich completed an improbable double and won the Bundesliga title when it beat Werder Bremen 3-1 and Bayer Leverkusen lost 2-0 at Unterhaching.

NFL EUROPE: Cory Sauter threw a touchdown and Terry Battle added a 35-yard run as the Barcelona Dragons beat the Amsterdam Admirals 22-16.

SAILING: Fort Walton Beach's Randy Smyth won his sixth Worrell 1000 catamaran race, finishing the 13-day, 1,000-mile race in 77 hours, 30 seconds at Virginia Beach, Va.

_ Compiled from Times wires.

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