Japan pours cold water on fashionista swimmers

» Japan's swimmers could face lifetime bans if they dye their hair, wear an earring or have brightly decorated fingernails.

Japanese officials have launched a strict policy to prevent athletes turning up for competitions looking more like rock stars than swimmers.
Male and female swimmers caught sneaking into each others rooms at Japanese training camp, where the sexes have separate sleeping quarters, will also find themselves in hot water.

"The United States and Australia are also setting these criteria," the Japan Swimming Federation's executive director Masafumi Izumi told local media on Wednesday.
"We have had many recent controversies (in Japan) with marijuana in sport and at universities, and this is about swimming taking a stand on its own initiative."

Schwarzenegger speeds up 'green' stadium

»California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put his muscle behind a "green" football stadium for Los Angeles on Thursday by signing a bill to accelerate construction for a private developer's proposed $800 million sports complex.

The bill helps the project clear environmental hurdles for construction in the City of Industry in Los Angeles County, which hopes to attract a National Football League professional football franchise after losing the Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis in 1995.
Developer Majestic Realty Co plans to build the 75,000-seat stadium with private financing.

Barca talent farm, a backroom for success

»Behind Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium stands a traditional, 18th century, Catalan stone farmhouse that has played perhaps an even more significant role in the club's history than the colossal soccer arena that dwarfs it.

Barca began using La Masia de Can Planes, built in 1702, as a residence for youth recruits on Oct 20, 1979. Some 450 young footballers have left their homes and families to live at the Masia in the past three decades, about half from Catalonia and the rest from Spain and beyond, including Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Georgia, Cameroon and Senegal. More than 40 have made it into Barca's first team and almost as many have played for other sides in Spain's top division.

Michael BallackBallack support for England’s ’18 WC bid

»Germany captain Michael Ballack has joined the list of players backing England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, British media reported on Thursday.

"The atmosphere and competitive nature of English football has been a great experience, playing with and against the best players in the world," the Chelsea player was quoted as saying. "England would be a fitting host for the 2018 World Cup."

Ballack's clubmate Michael Essien of Ghana and Manchester City's Brazil forward Robinho have also been added to the list of more than 70 current and former players, led by England captain John Terry, who are backing the FA's bid to stage the finals.

S Africans plans to go ‘wild’ for blessings

»South African traditional leaders plan to perform ritual animal slaughters to bless stadiums for the 2010 World Cup tournament ahead of the start of the showcase event next June, they said on Friday.

Zolani Mkiva, chairman of the Makhonya Royal Trust, a grouping responsible for co-ordinating cultural activities, said the tournament, the first to be held in Africa, needed to be blessed in true "African style".

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast (cow)," said Mkiva.

"We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well. It's all about calling for the divinity to prevail for a fantastic atmosphere." South Africa is set to host the World Cup -- the world's most watched sports spectacle -- in less than eight months, with the tournament expected to attract about 500,000 foreign tourists. The officials have yet to respond to the request. "We believe that from the start we've got to do things in accordance with our own traditions,"